Sunday, 17 November


Judge Recommends Denial of $150,000 Piracy Judgment Against APK Download Site [TorrentFreak]

In April, a group of movie companies filed a lawsuit against the operators of various websites that promoted and distributed the Showbox app.

Showbox and similarly named clones are used by millions of people. These apps enable users to stream movies via torrents and direct sources, using a Netflix-style interface.

The tools are a thorn in the side of movie companies, including those behind “The Hitman’s Bodyguard,” “London Has Fallen,” and “Hunter Killer.” In a complaint filed at a U.S. District Court in Hawaii, the companies pointed out that Showbox facilitates massive piracy.

“The Defendants misleadingly promote the Show Box app as a legitimate means for viewing content to the public, who eagerly install the Show Box app to watch copyright protected content, thereby leading to profit for the Defendants,” the 58-page complaint read.

The movie outfits went after several defendants suspected of having ties to one or more piracy-related sites. This includes a Vietnamese man named Nghi Phan Nhat, who allegedly operates the APK download portal ‘’

The site stood accused of offering the ShowBox and Popcorn Time apps, which have since been removed, but the defendant never responded to the allegations in court. This prompted the movie companies to file a motion for a default judgment.

In September, they requested $150,000 in statutory damages, as well as thousands of dollars in attorney fees and costs. In addition, they asked for an injunction ordering third party services such as hosting companies and domain registrars to stop doing business with the site.

While the defendant remained silent, the Court referred that matter to a magistrate judge for a recommendation. Although default judgments are often easily granted, in this case, Hawaii’s Magistrate Judge Kenneth Mansfield advises denial of the request.

In their motion, the filmmakers argued that the Court has personal jurisdiction over the operator of the site. This requires a relationship between the foreign defendant and the US. To establish this, it has to pass the three-part minimum contacts test.

The first part of this test is to show that the defendant purposefully directed activities to the United States or purposefully availed himself of the privileges of conducting activities there.

According to the movie companies, this is certainly the case, since the site is quite popular in the US and also presented entirely in English. However, that’s not enough to establish personal jurisdiction, according to the Judge.

“That the APK Site is in English does not show purposeful direction, as the United States is not the only country with English as an official language. Nor is Plaintiffs’ allegation that the United States is the country with the second most traffic to the APK site evidence of purposeful direction,” Judge Mansfield writes.

The filmmakers further argued that the defendant purposefully availed himself to the State of Hawaii by conducting business with US-based companies, domain registrar Namesilo and CDN provider Cloudflare. However, the Magistrate Judge disagrees again.

“While Defendant Nhat may have contacts with California and Arizona pursuant to his registration with United States companies, such contacts are not extensive enough to invoke nationwide jurisdiction such that it is reasonable to subject Defendant Nhat to litigation in any United States federal forum,” the Judge writes.

The fact that the APK download site references the US DMCA law on its site is not good enough either. According to the Judge that merely means that the site is in compliance with the DMCA, not that the defendant subjects himself to the jurisdiction of US courts.

Based on these and other arguments, Judge Mansfield concludes that the Court doesn’t have personal jurisdiction over the alleged site operator. Without even considering the other two elements of the minimum contacts test, he recommends denying the motion for a default judgment.

The recommendation is a setback for the movie companies. If the Court adopts it, they will not get their $150,000 damages through a default judgment. Neither will they get an injunction to take the site offline.

The filmmakers had more success a few weeks ago when they reached an agreement with the Pakistani operator of ‘,’ who agreed to pay a $150,000 settlement. Whether that will be paid in full is another question.

A copy of Magistrate Judge Kenneth Mansfield’s findings and recommendations is available here (pdf).

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

Steal This Show S05E02: ‘‘On The Frontline Of The Code War’’ [TorrentFreak]

In this episode Jamie meets up with John P. Carlin, author of Dawn of the Code War and former Assistant Attorney General for the U.S. Department of Justice’s National Security Division to discuss the ongoing network war with China — one that’s about to ratchet up, as 5G connects billions of devices via a technology heavily dependent on China’s Huawei.

What does it mean to wage war in the era of distributed networks? How do networks change the very idea of ‘Command and Control’ towards leaderless, non-hierarchical memetic structures? We dig into crowdsourced terrorism’ of Al Qaeda and look at some similarities with Anonymous and the QAnon phenomenon.

Finally, we discuss the widespread idea that there’s a kind of break with authority going on in the online era—what could be described as an ‘epistemological crisis’ created by our hyper-informational environment—one that’s being exploited and amplified by various lords of chaos to create new and unpredictable political realities.

Steal This Show aims to release bi-weekly episodes featuring insiders discussing crypto, privacy, copyright and file-sharing developments. It complements our regular reporting by adding more room for opinion, commentary, and analysis.

Host: Jamie King

Guest: John P. Carlin

If you enjoy this episode, consider becoming a patron and getting involved with the show. Check out Steal This Show’s Patreon campaign: support us and get all kinds of fantastic benefits!

Produced by Jamie King
Edited & Mixed by Lucas Marston
Original Music by David Triana
Web Production by Eric Barch

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.

Shirish Agarwal: Unbelievable [Planet Debian]

This will be short as I have been having a touch of cold and flu over the last week. As I shared, I moved to mastodon from twitter and quite a number of people have moved on mastodon and many other instance which run mastodon. The best thing IMHO was that –
a. I came to know the wide range of projects that fediverse is attacking or working on. While I’m not going to dwelve much into fediverse in this blog post, maybe some future blog post either here or on might be used to share some of the features which I thought were far better than twitter and the possibility of people challenging the status quo, especially since if you have a bit of experience servicing a web-server. It is very LAMPisque in nature, except of course they use postgres ( much better choice and probably much more scalable) although they are still trying to fix and figure out response times and such, being a non-corporate, non-ad service, they rely on people’s donations.


I just started seeing Unbelievable which was produced and shown on netflix. While I probably need a week or two and would be staggering my viewing so that it doesn’t affect me emotionally as have been told by friends. I just viewed the first twenty minutes of the 1st episode and there itself, it seemed lot of things had gone wrong. Some of my observations –

a. What is not told is when the first call to 911 went, if it was told that the assault involved a young woman shouldn’t a lady officer have been sent to the scene to investigate. While I have heard that the cop defended the girl, perhaps it would have been better if a lady cop would have gone to the scene. She might have been a tad more empathatic and it probably would have been easier for the victim, in this case a young girl to share her experience.

b. When it was told it was rape, there were again two male detectives. Shouldn’t it be women handling this. I would have seen multiple advantages in having a woman detective here. Probably most women are able to have a good reading about other women. Probably women in law-enforcement much more so. She would also have been empathatic and usually girl/women are usually much more relaxed around other women. So for the detective it would also have helped her in the investigation for signs of ‘tells’ to know if the victim was lying.

c. No legal help for the victim – After the lead detective questions the girl again in the police station, he asks her to sign over the results of the tests of the testing from the lab as well as to write the statement again. Having an attorney there perhaps would have advised her as to what are her rights and whether she should or not either sign those documents or start writing by herself right in the police station which was stressful for her. As she does tell in the beginning of the interview, she has a headache. If such a statement was indeed needed by her, she should have been told to write in the confines of her home or where she was staying with her guardian. I know of so many times while I think of writing a blog post, there are so many ideas, when I start typing, half of them I simply have forgotten. Later, if I do even want to make a change or two, many a times the change itself would be so dramatic that I would have to re-write quite a bit of the blog post taking that additional info. which I had known but not voiced on the blog. So, when somebody like me who may miss formulations or ideas even when I’m not stressed, here is a young girl/woman who claims to have been raped/assaulted. Having had a lawyer even if she was not very sharp would probably told her of her rights and what she can or should not do in the cirumstances she is in. I probably will expand on it as I see more of the series either here itself or on other blog posts as I see more of it.

Hopefully we will meet in a more cheerful blog post 😦


Converting Veterans Day back to Armistice Day [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Armistice Day celebrates the end of World War I, but the US turned it into a celebration of soldiers, Veterans Day. Veterans for Peace seeks to convert it back.

Behrouz Boochani [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Behrouz Boochani, Voice of Manus Island Refugees, Is Free in New Zealand. But only for a short time. It is not clear where he can go and stay.

Unrecycled plastic [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Very little plastic is really recycled — often plastic collected to recycle is just thrown away — but the plastic companies promote America Recycles Day as a distraction from reducing production of plastic.

UK gives children criminal records [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Most of the children under state custody in the UK get criminal records. Part of the reason is that the "care homes" call the thugs for minor infractions.

Putin replicating Soviet Union [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Ukrainian film-maker Oleg Sentsov, recently released from political imprisonment in Russia, says that Putin is building a tyrannical system that replicates the Soviet Union.

Medical data of millions of Americans [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

"I'm the Google whistleblower. The medical data of millions of Americans is at risk."

I have to point out that anonymizing a database gives people little protection because it is often easy to deanonymize, and that HIPAA is not strong enough as protection for patient's privacy.

Rebel leaders in Ukraine ordered by Russia [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

The rebel leaders in Ukraine were obeying orders from Russia.

This is significant for the moral significance of the rebellion as a whole. It was clearly a Russian attack on Ukraine.

However, this does not show that any of them knowingly and intentionally fired on an airliner. I think they assumed it was a military plane.

The right-wing coup in Bolivia [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

The Right-Wing Coup in Bolivia Is Exactly the Opposite of What Democracy Looks Like.

What Evo Morales achieved for the non-rich in Bolivia, especially the indigenous people who tend to be quite poor.

It seems clear that his enemies organized a dishonest campaign to force him out, but it isn't clear to me what tangible acts the military did to further that campaign. I think this is an important question. We should not call it a "military coup" unless the military played a central role.


tweetSucker work [Scripting News]

I'm doing a bit of refinement now that I've had a chance to use tweetSucker for a few days. First impression, I tweet a lot, and most of it is uninteresting a day later. I realized what I want most are tweets that are't links, rt's or replies. Original stuff. An idea that could possibly turn into an interesting piece on the blog. So I adjusted the app so that it splits them up into the four categories. I've pasted below the four classes of tweets from yesterday. Here's the OPML file.

Original tweets

  • In a way it’s great the Trump is so rampant and open about his corruption. Because if we ever get out of this mess we are going to create some super kick ass laws to prevent this shit from ever happening again.
  • Are there any good impeachment podcasts?
  • I am far from being a billionaire. But I've made good money selling software, real estate and I just inherited a bit of money from my parents. This is what I have to say. I was always amazed at how little I paid in taxes on each of the major events.
  • The whole point of impeachment it seems to me is to spin the Repubs around and around until they pass out. Then we hypnotize them.
  • I'm working my way through Mr Robot, starting with season 1 so I can watch the final season without being horribly confused. But all of a sudden there's the final season of Man in the High Castle. Oy. And the third season of The Crown is coming soon.
  • I love the story from the Roger Stone trial how Trump directed the release of Democrats emails.


  • Trump begins 'portions' of annual physical exam at Walter Reed.
  • I wish there was a .newbie extension. Unlike many other people, I like the idea of newbies. It means you're getting out and trying out new things. With that I bring you..
  • @Paul__Walsh
  • Apple Is Trying to Kill Web Technology.
  • @AdamParkhomenko @TedraCobb #streisandeffect.
  • A longish essay on how humans deal with change.
  • See how much bigger the problem is than Trump.
  • White supremacy rules the Republican party. (Yes, it's pretty much out in the open.)
  • @beradleydavis
  • @beradleydavis
  • This Is How Trump's Gangster Government Works.
  • RT @davewiner: Kyrie Irving has helped Boston enormously, by leaving.
  • There was a time when many wondered, myself included, whether Speaker Pelosi was up to exposing Trump.
  • RT @CNN: This 9-year-old boy is about to graduate from college
  • Kyrie Irving has helped Boston enormously, by leaving.
  • UCLA receives $20 million to establish UCLA Bedari Kindness Institute.


  • @kenolin1 @eilenez I bet he went to Harvard.
  • @Paul__Walsh @migueldeicaza Just curious will some version of MacOS only run software downloaded from the app store?
  • @Paul__Walsh Gotcha. Egos were always a problem with Apple. Remember who the founder was. (Woz on the other hand has an ego for sure but he's a sweetheart.)
  • @koush @migueldeicaza Which is something millennials can legitimately hate boomers for. We didn't have to deal with app stores, or malware for that matter. The tech world was innocent when we were young. It was perfect. otoh machines had little memory and basically sucked. cc @danb @mkapor
  • @Paul__Walsh Actually no -- the problem was a guy named Sidhu who was in charge of networking at Apple. He had a small number of devs he liked, and they got to make network software. So there were three email apps and mazewars, and that's about it for network software.
  • @koush @migueldeicaza I don't care about app stores. Not for me. If they had been standard when I started, I would have probably never made anything of myself in software.
  • @Paul__Walsh All the way back to 1987 when they shipped the Mac Plus with networking built in. Every Mac had it. Super easy to set up. Impossible APIs (probably by design). That was the door they left open for the web.
  • @migueldeicaza I don't care about being in the app store. And the usual thing applies to links I post, I just thought it was worth looking at. No endorsement implied.
  • @migueldeicaza I'm not dropping anything. I made my investment in electron and have been reaping the benefits. I'm so tired of junior techies deciding to rip up the pavement and make us all go on diaspora. Too old for that bullshit. I'm never updating my Mac. ;-)
  • @gaberivera Something like what's going on re Ukraine right now. Total saturation in the news.
  • @migueldeicaza I don't understand. And you and I don't see eye to eye on much in tech. Electron is great. I use it all the time. Saves my ass. Like everything it matters how you write your code.
  • @dsearls @bjm262run And Doc, Google is doing it too, from a whole other angle. They want to turn the web into their own silo. We've been here before. What comes next is something like the web. ;-)
  • @Paul__Walsh Apple hated the web right from the start. I was very close to Apple at the time, had friends there, and it hit me one day as an AHA. The web totally fucked their vision of computing -- wizzy. They could have had it all if they had made appletalk easier for devs to code for.
  • @dsearls @Apple That app broke the web for me on my iPhone and iPad. I'm sure that was their intention? Whatever.
  • @KenSmith My guess: Not enough.
  • @ewarren Re #3 -- Until Citizens United there were limits on how much political speech billionaires could buy. Now our elections have become jokes. It was a huge mistake. Since it was a Supreme Court decision the only ways to fix it are to change the court or change the Constitution.
  • @ewarren Re #1 -- making individual people targets is going to get someone killed. knowing that the billionaires are going to become even more distant from reality. And they have a lot of power, and the more disconnected they are, the worse for everyone.
  • I would like to propose a treaty between @ewarren and the billionaires of America. 1. Warren stops making it personal for moral and pragmatic reasons. 2. Billionaires agree that there will be tax increases. 3. Billionaires agree to aggressively fight against Citizens United.
  • @macloo I thought Season 3 was great. The best. I laughed so much. I know I'm weird. ;-)
  • @beradleydavis I've written a lot about that.
  • @guan I never got into that.
  • @KenSmith I'm pretty sure most people dont see it that way now.


  • RT @glennkirschner2: I can’t believe we’re here again. Trump’s pardons put our soldiers in harm’s way. Other countries will assume our sold…
  • RT @politico: BREAKING: A top White House national security aide told impeachment investigators that EU Ambassador Gordon Sondland claimed…
  • RT @AP: BREAKING: Louisiana’s John Bel Edwards stuns GOP, wins reelection to a second term as the Deep South’s only Democratic governor.
  • RT @TwitterSafety: What’s synthetic and manipulated media? It’s media that’s been significantly altered or created in a way that changes th…
  • RT @davewiner: @koush @migueldeicaza Which is something millennials can legitimately hate boomers for. We didn't have to deal with app stor…
  • RT @SRuhle: WOMEN face sexism & discrimination every day & we keep pressing forward. What @EliseStefanik did in knowingly violating a rule…
  • RT @joanwalsh: Where is Pompeo, anyway? What a coward.
  • RT @briefbk: @Chanders @nytimes @washingtonpost Chris, this is @davewiner using a different account. From time to time friends of mine quot…
  • RT @davewiner: This is about so much more than impeachment.
  • RT @VickyPJWard: EXCLUSIVE: At last year's WH Hanukkah party, Lev Parnas & Igor Fruman had a private meeting w Trump & Giuliani during whic…
  • RT @FaceTheNation: “He made a mistake,” @SpeakerPelosi says on Trump's tweet about Yovanovitch during her testimony. “I think part of it is…


Extinction Rebellion floats a drowned house down the Thames [Cory Doctorow – Boing Boing]

Extinction Rebellion's Sinking House is a protest art-installation in the form of a suburban house drowning in the Thames. They launched it early last Sunday.

The artists behind the work are Katey Burak and Rob Higgs.

Scientific predictions of rising sea levels by 2100 range from less than 1 metre to as high as 5. The Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) suggest a rise of less than 2 metres, but past assessments have almost always underestimated the pace of climate change. The rate of melting Greenland ice sheets recorded this summer was not predicted until 2070. At its peak, this ice was melting at a rate of 140,000 tonnes per second – a total figure equivalent to 200 river Thames.

When asked for his own opinion, Professor Harrison added: “My prediction is that IPCC has probably underestimated the ice sheet response and the likely rate of future sea level rise”.

Katey Burak and Rob Higgs, who built ‘The Sinking House’ commented: “Sadly, climate-change is something that affects every one of us. We want to respectfully raise awareness of the severity of the impending human-made disaster. We need urgent action to address the Climate Emergency and devastation of our beautiful and precious natural world, which is being decimated at an unprecedented and tragic rate. We implore the government to act responsibly and we will continue to make our voices heard until they act.”

“When I hear the facts about climate change my brain can scarcely comprehend them, they are vast and scary. We wanted to make something that people can visually connect to, whilst leaning on the government and the experts to make the changes that need to be made. Until they make the big legal and financial changes, it’s very hard for people like me or you to make significant changes to protect ourselves and the world around us.”

Act Now – Our house is flooding [Julia/Extinction Rebellion]

Extinction Rebellion Sends a Sinking Home Along the River Thames, Warning of Climate Disaster [Sarah Rose Sharp/Hyperallergic]

(Image: Guy Reece)


Link [Scripting News]

The whole point of impeachment it seems to me is to spin the Repubs around until they pass out. Then we hypnotize them.

Link [Scripting News]

Following up on yesterday's american.newbie piece. True story. I went to eat Chinese food with my Mom a few years ago. Highly rated restaurant. In the neighborhood I grew up, many years ago when it was a sleepy boring place with an embarassing name. Most of the people spoke Chinese. We had to wait quite a while for a table. When we were seated the waiter asked if we were tourists. I laughed and said no we're natives. The funny thing is that not that long ago we were the newbies. The food was fantastic, btw. So many flavors, very satisfying. Before the Chinese came, Flushing was famous for nothing in the way of anything, in the last three centuries at least. 💥

Link [Scripting News]

A neighbor who gets the nightly email says I should go easier on Elizabeth Warren. I love getting comments from people I see who read my stuff. It's an affirmation that I exist, in some fashion, and at least one person is listening. I like that. Alan Kay said that Macintosh was the first PC worth criticizing. Jean-Louis Gassée says the higher the monkey climbs a tree, the more people can see his derrière. I criticize Warren as a front-runner, the likely nominee, and because POTUS is an important job, esp the next one. It's not enough to win as Democrats, we have to win for the Constitution. Overlook our differences just for one election. There used to be liberals in the Republican Party, no reason the Democratic Party can't have expat Repubs. We're fighting for our soul as a country. Imho everything else is a detail to be worked out later.

Today in GPF History for Sunday, November 17, 2019 [General Protection Fault: The Comic Strip]

Todd prepares for his suicide mission to change the past and save the future...


China is still harvesting organs from prisoners and covering it up [Cory Doctorow – Boing Boing]

Last June, an independent tribunal concluded that the Chinese state was nonconsensually harvesting organs from prisoners despite promises that the practice had ended in 2014.

Now, a new report in BMC Medical Ethics Journal has affirmed the tribunal's conclusion, concluding that the official accounts of organ transplants in China contain a "systematic falsification and manipulation of official organ transplant datasets."

The BMC researchers examined the official data and found obvious signs that it had been manipulated to hide wrongdoing -- the data was too tidy and lacked the outliers that indicate that it came from real-world activity.

The conclusion was upheld by the esteemed public health statistician David Spiegelhalter (previously).

The Chinese government disputes the finding. The income from organlegging to the Chinese state is estimated at $1b/year.

Sources behind the forensic data analysis deployed by the report’s authors included the China Organ Transplant Response System (COTRS) and the Red Cross Society of China. Data that found mathematical patterns that defy expected statistical anomalies. In others words, the official China reports emanate from a PR spreadsheet and not from any kind of genuine on the ground analysis and genuine data.

Susie Hughes from the International Coalition to End Transplant Abuse in China (ETAC) welcomed the findings, warning that the report “exposes the lies and deception that mark China’s so-called transplant ‘reforms.’ The falsification of the China Organ Transplant Response System (COTRS) data appears to be part of an elaborate coverup that disguises the state-run mass murder of innocent people for their organs in China.”

China Killing Prisoners To Harvest Organs For Transplant: New Report Exposes Cover-Up [Zak Doffman/Forbes]

(via /.)

After workers tried to form a union, trans rights group ditches most of its staff [Cory Doctorow – Boing Boing]

Last week, the National Center for Transgender Equality discharged all employees in a bargaining unit organized under the Nonprofit Professional Employees Union (NPEU); the employees were seeking recognition of a union.

The NPEU has filed an unfair labor practice charge against the NCTE, alleging that NCTE drew out the union recognition process, and that these delays became untenable in August when management unjustly fired a person of color from the organization, prompting a walkout. After this, the workers say, the workplace became increasingly hostile, with union-affiliated workers facing pressure to quit.

NPEU condemns the actions of NCTE leadership. By busting their staff’s union and retaliating against collective action, they have done a disservice to their organization’s own mission. According to NCTE’s own research, transgender people often lack legal protections in the workplace, which leads to high levels of unemployment and poverty. Moreover, one in six transgender workers have lost a job due to discrimination. By failing to recognize NCTE’s staff union and pushing the majority of the employees out of the organization, NCTE has not only taken away the staff’s livelihood, but has hurt the movement for transgender equality. Ironically, organizing a union and negotiating a contract that prohibits discrimination based on gender identity is the only way for transgender workers to have explicit legal protections in the workplace in over half the country.

Nonprofit Professional Employees Union Files Unfair Labor Practice Against National Center for Transgender Equality Leadership For Retaliation Against Staff Organizing [Nonprofit Professional Employees Union]

(Thanks, Kathy Padilla!)

(Image: National Center for Transgender Equality)


This might vs. this better [Seth's Blog]

Most of the time, we approach our tasks with the mantra of, “this better work.”

Far better to say, “this might work.”

If you’re designing a bridge or a pacemaker, I’m begging you to embrace established norms and build something that’s going to work, every single time.

For the rest of us, though, the task is to leap forward, to improve, to explore the next frontier.

“This might work” is the slogan for a scientist, an artist and a linchpin.


Link [Scripting News]

If you get the nightly email, if you want to respond to something I wrote, just respond to the email. I will be the only person to see it.

Link [Scripting News]

I wish there was a .newbie domain. I like the idea of newbies. It means you're getting out and trying out new things.


Green New Deal [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Sanders and Ocasio-Cortez proposed a detailed plan for the Green New Deal in the area of public housing. This would address the housing shortage in US cities as well as reducing greenhouse gas emissions, and in the process create many good jobs.

Buyout of Buttigieg campaign [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

(satire) Deval Patrick Acquires High Favorability Numbers, Good Iowa Polling After Leveraged Buyout Of Buttigieg Campaign.

Nature revenge [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

*Minutes after the Venetian city council voted down a resolution addressing the climate crisis Wednesday, the council chambers were [flooded] with water for the first time in history.*

Urgent: reject Keystone XL pipeline [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

US citizens: call on the State Department to reject the Keystone XL pipeline.

If you call, please spread the word!

Mike Pence encounter [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

(satire) … Mike Pence was reportedly against a bathroom wall for hours Thursday following an encounter with a doorknob resembling the female breast.

Biometric data in Russian bank [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

The Russian bank Sberbank is pressuring its clients to hand over biometric data even though this is not actually required.

EIB and fossil fuels [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

The European Investment Bank decided to stop investing in most fossil fuels.

There are two weaknesses in its decision: it won't take effect for another 14 months, and it has a loophole for gas.

According to a medical study, delay in curbing global heating will endanger people's health and cause premature death — especially for children.

Tax cuts against non-rich [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Plutocratist senators, including some Democrats, are pushing a law for "automatic deficit reduction" — to work by cutting spending, not by increasing taxes.

In other words, every tax cut for the rich will automatically cut support for the non-rich.

Facial recognition on Capitol Hill [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Fight for the Future scanned the faces of passers-by on Capitol Hill, tracking people including congresscritters and senators, to bring home to them why they should make such scanning illegal for anyone to do.

The Situation Room, October 2039 [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

The Situation Room, October 2039: the president and vice president, and other high civil and military officials are following the damage from Hurricane Monica, Hurricane Nicholas, and Hurricane Ophelia, as well as Southern California where "millions of people are under mandatory evacuation orders with essentially nowhere to go because of a maelstrom of raging wildfires."

Fortunately, the US no longer needs to worry greatly about Russian and China, which have been hit by their own human-caused climate disasters.

In 2019, important US military bases have already been ruined by storms and threatened by wildfires.

Civilian life will be in constant danger from these events, too. It will not be easy to grow as much food as we produce today.

The soundest policy would be for the US, China and Russia to join together now and force all countries to join them in rapidly reducing greenhouse gas emissions. It is foolish to wait until the disaster makes it impossible to delay any longer.

Nonpartisan Journalism [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

US college student newspapers face relentless pressure from activist students to become overtly partisan.

I support the campaign to abolish the US deportation thug department,

ICE, and I would have joined in protesting Sessions' visit to Northwestern if I had been there. But it is important for newspapers (not just those of students) to cover these protests in a nonpartisan way. One of our deep political problems (not new) is that our journalism is too politicized. This makes it hard to determine what really happened — so how can we decide where to stand on an issue?


Sucker bet (a thought experiment) [Charlie's Diary]

Here is a thought experiment for our age.

You wake up to find your fairy godmother has overachieved: you're a new you, in a physically attractive, healthy body with no ailments and no older than 25 (giving you a reasonable propect of living to see the year 2100: making it to 2059 is pretty much a dead certainty).

The new you is also fabulously wealthy: you are the beneficial owner of a gigantic share portfolio which, your wealth management team assures you, is worth on the order of $100Bn, and sufficiently stable that even Trump's worst rage-tweeting never causes you to lose more than half a billion or so: even a repeat of the 2008 crisis will only cost you half an Apollo program.

Finally, you're outside the public eye. While your fellow multi-billionaires know you, your photo doesn't regularly appear in HELLO! magazine or Private Eye: you can walk the streets of Manhattan in reasonable safety without a bodyguard, if you so desire.

Now read on below the cut for the small print.

Maslow's hierarchy of needs takes on a whole new appearance from this angle.

Firstly: anthropogenic climate change will personally affect you in the years to come. (It may be the biggest threat to your survival.)

Secondly: the tensions generated by late-stage capitalism and rampant nationalist populism also affect you personally, insofar as billionaires as a class are getting the blame for all the world's ills whether or not they personally did anything blameworthy.

Let's add some more constraints.

Your wealth grows by 1% per annum, compounded, in the absence of Global Financial Crises.

Currently there is a 10% probability of another Global Financial Crisis in the next year, which will cut your wealth by 30%. For each year in which there is no GFC, the probability of a GFC in the next year rises by 2%. (So in a decade's time, if there's been no GFC, the probability is pushing 30%.) After a GFC the probability of a crash in the next yeear resets to 0% (before beginning to grow again after 5 years, as before). Meanwhile, your portfolio will recover at 2% per annum until it reaches its previous level, (or there's another GFC).

You can spend up to 1% of your portfolio per year on whatever you like, without consequences for the rest of the portfolio. Above that, for every additional dollar you liquidate, your investments lose another dollar. (Same recovery rules as for a GFC apply. If you try to liquidate all $100Bn overnight, you get at most $51Bn.)

(Note: I haven't made a spreadsheet model of this yet. Probably an omission one of you will address ...)

The head on a stick rule: in any year when your net wealth exceeds $5Bn, there is a 1% chance of a violent revolution that you cannot escape, and end up with your head on a stick. If there are two or more GFCs within a 10 year period, the probability of a revolution in the next year goes up to 2% per year. A third GFC doubles the probability of revolution, and so on: four GFCs within 40 years mean an 8% probability you'll be murdered.

Note: the planetary GNP is $75Tn or so. You're rich, but you're three orders of magnitude smaller than the global economy. You can't afford to go King Knut. You can't even afford to buy any one of Boeing, Airbus, BP, Shell, Exxon, Apple, IBM, Microsoft, or Google. Forget buying New Zealand: the annual GDP of even a relatively small island nation is around double your total capital, and you can't afford the mortgage. $100Bn does not make you omnipotent.

What is your optimum survival strategy?

Stuff I'm going to suggest is a really bad idea:

Paying Elon to build you a bolt-hole on Mars. Sure you can afford it within the next 20 years (if you live that long), but you will end up spending 75% of your extended life expectancy staring at the interior walls of a converted stainless steel fuel tank.

Paying faceless realtors to build you a bolt-hole in New Zealand. Sure you can afford a fully staffed bunker and a crew of gun-toting minions wearing collar bombs, but you will end up spending 75% of your extended life expectancy under house arrest, wondering when one of the minions is going to crack and decide torturing you to death is worth losing his head. And that's assuming the locals don't get irritated enough to pump carbon monoxide into your ventillation ducts.

Paying the US government to give you privileged status and carry on business as usual. Guillotines, tumbrils, you know the drill.

So it boils down to ... what is the best use of $100Bn over 80 years to mitigate the crisis situation we find ourselves in? (Your end goal should be to live to a ripe old age and die in bed, surrounded by your friends and family.)


KodiUKTV Considers its Future Following FACT Cease & Desist [TorrentFreak]

This week, news began to filter through that the shutdown of a pair of Kodi add-on related resources had taken place under serious legal pressure.

KodiUKTV and OneNation weren’t specific in their announcements but TorrentFreak was able to confirm that the Federation Against Copyright Theft was behind both actions. Indeed, the anti-piracy group told us that other groups were targeted too but at this stage, we haven’t been able to identify them.

What we do know is at the end of October, FACT sent out cease and desist notices titled ‘Unauthorized Distribution of Film, Television and Sport Subject to Copyright’.

The letters stated that FACT investigators had established that the platforms were “providing or facilitating access without authorization, to broadcasts or premium pay channels” containing content belonging to Sky, BT Sport, and The Premier League.

Demanding an immediate end to “unlawful activity”, the notices added that “all infringing links, listings and information from webpages, social media and any other medium” should be permanently removed. If not, a criminal investigation might get underway.

A recipient of one of the cease-and-desist letters, Matt – founder of KodiUKTV – told us that if he’d have received a simple takedown notice at any point in the past, he would’ve been happy to investigate and take action if any add-on breached copyright. Instead, it appears that FACT went for straight for the jugular.

Part of the problem for Matt, at least from our discussions, is that he doesn’t believe he was doing anything wrong. His platform didn’t develop or host any add-ons but offered a tool so that Kodi users could download and install them from elsewhere.

“Ultimately it was at the risk of the add-on designers and end-users, should such add-ons contain possibly infringing content that we had absolutely no control over,” he explains.

Matt says that he contacted FACT within an hour of receiving their cease-and-desist notice with a request for more information. He also gave FACT a commitment that the site will not deal with add-ons or builds in the future. At the time of writing, he is yet to receive a response.

As a result and at least for now, his entire site remains down, which Matt feels is both disproportionate and frustrating since much of the content the site offered (guides etc) had nothing to do with any of the companies mentioned by FACT.

“We didn’t actually host anything for the add-on guys and we don’t make any add-ons ourselves. We just offered a place for people to put their add-ons to be installed by the end-user, which is very common for many repos,” Matt explains.

“This means we were just a hub for the community for help and guides. This was always my key focus for KODIUKTV – creating guides & voicing our opinion on issues within the community to help others.

“We do not want to kiss goodbye to the website and the community we have been so involved in over the past five years. We are hoping we can continue the website on a publication standpoint and move forward.”

The site was founded by Matt in 2014 after he found himself “tinkering” with XBMC (as Kodi was formerly known) on a Raspberry Pi, installing add-ons, and eventually coming up with a ‘build’

“I’ve always been interested in publications & running a media site. So once the community started to rise we needed a home for our guides and tutorials, our news, and even the odd giveaway over the years,” he explains.

“We grew at a rapid rate which gave me and the team a huge learning curve of what it took to manage and maintain a website/project of this size. We became the go-to for people looking for help.”

At KodiUKTV’s peak last year, Matt says it was receiving around eight million users per month, a figure that’s dropped a little this year to a still-impressive six million.

But with this growth has come problems, not only in respect of FACT and its clients, but with various claims against the site’s social media accounts, and even strikes against Matt’s personal pages that had nothing to do with the project. Now, however, he is hopeful that things can move forward.

Matt says he’s just a hobbyist doing what he loves, one that also cares about freedom on the Internet. He has no desire to get into a fight with big media companies and hopes this dispute with FACT can be dealt with quickly while keeping the community intact.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.


Krissy, As of Yesterday [Whatever]

She’s pretty great.

We like to joke that she doesn’t age; well, she does, in fact, age (the gray hair is a giveaway). She just does it gracefully. More gracefully than I do, in any event, which to be fair is a low bar. I don’t mind. She digs me anyway.


Wouter Verhelst: Announcing extrepo [Planet Debian]

Debian ships with a lot of packages. This allows our users to easily install software without too much effort -- just run apt-get install foo, and foo gets installed.

However, Debian does not ship with everything, and for that reason there sometimes are things that are not installable with just the Debian repositories. Examples include:

  • Software that is not (yet) packaged for Debian
  • A repository for software that is in Debian, but for the bleeding-edge version of that software (e.g., maintained by upstream, or maintained by the Debian packager for that software)
  • Software that is not DFSG-free, and cannot be included into Debian's non-free repository due to licensing issues, but that can freely be installed by Debian users.

In order to enable and use such repositories on a Debian system, a user currently has to perform some actions that may be insecure:

  • Some repositories provide a link to a repository and a key, and expect the user to perform all actions to enable that repository manually. This works, but mistakes are easy to make (especially for beginners), and therefore it is not ideal.
  • Some repositories provide a script to enable the repository, which must be run as root. Such scripts are not signed when run. In other words, we expect users to run untrusted code downloaded from the Internet, when everywhere else we tell people that doing so is a bad idea.
  • Some repositories provide a single .deb file that can be installed, and which enables the necessary repositories in the apt configuration. Since, in contrast to RPM files, Debian packages are not signed, this means that the configuration is not enabled securely.

While there is a tool to enable package signatures in Debian packages, the dpkg tool does not enforce the existence of such signatures, and therefore it is possible for an attacker to replace the (signed) .deb file with an unsigned variant, bypassing the whole signature.

In an effort to remedy this whole situation, I looked at creating extrepo, a package that would download repository metadata from a special-purpose repository, verify the signatures placed on that metadata, and if everything matches, enable the repository by creating the necessary apt configuration files.

This should allow users to enable external repository "foo" by running extrepo enable foo, rather than downloading a script from foo's website and executing it as root -- or other similarly insecure options.

The extrepo package has been uploaded to Debian; and so once NEW processing has finished, will be available in Debian unstable.

I might upload it to backports too if no issues are found, but that won't be an immediate thing.


Russ Allbery: Review: Rift in the Sky [Planet Debian]

Review: Rift in the Sky, by Julie E. Czerneda

Series: Stratification #3
Publisher: DAW
Copyright: July 2009
ISBN: 1-101-13317-1
Format: Kindle
Pages: 419

This is the third and final book of the Stratification trilogy and the bridge between it and the Trade Pact trilogy, of which it is a prequel. It's readable without reading the Trade Pact (although that series is overall better), but not very readable without the rest of the Stratification series.

Be warned that the publisher's summary of this book, found on Goodreads, Amazon, and other places you might read about it, is a spoiler for nearly all of the plot. It's not a very surprising spoiler if you've read the Trade Pact books, but still, publishers, don't do this.

Riders of the Storm left off with Aryl with a more stable situation, a new negotiated compromise with the Oud, and more information about the Om'ray, including the mysterious distant clan that no one visits. The origins of her world's balance of powers, and the goals of the outsider presence on her world, are both still opaque, but she's settled near the human Marcus and his archaeological site, so I was optimistic that we were about to learn more.

We don't. What the reader gets instead is more clan politics, worries about the new Om'ray powers that are eagerly adopted by the children of Aryl's clan, and only a few faint additional hints at the nature of the Cloisters. Aryl has more interactions with the Tiktik that finally lead to understanding more of the Agreement from the perspective of the other two races of Cersi (with rather dramatic consequences), and we learn quite a bit more about Om'ray reproduction. But there's next to nothing about how any of this strange and clearly artificial balance was created in the first place, or what the civilization that Marcus is so fascinated by truly is, or how it relates to the Om'ray, or even why the Om'ray clearly had advanced technology at one point in time that they no longer understand.

I hope the information that I wanted from this series is in the following Reunification series, since right now I'm irritated. (Although apparently not irritated enough to stop reading.)

On top of the frustrating lack of answers to nearly every question I had from the first book, this novel has a very odd structure, exacerbated by some strange decisions in how the Kindle version is configured. The last 100 pages are marked in the table of contents as "Teaser chapter" and appear after the dramatis personae. The Kindle reader even pops up the "rate this book" screen before that chapter, exactly as if the novel were over and this material were preview chapters of some subsequent book. I assumed it was a (surprisingly long) excerpt from the start of This Gulf of Time and Stars, the first book of the next trilogy.

It's not, although I admit I bought that book just to check for this review (I was going to buy it eventually anyway). That's a very good thing, since that last hundred pages was the only thing that salvaged this story for me, even though it uses my least favorite fictional trope.

The conclusion of the main story is weirdly abrupt. After lots of Aryl navigating the leadership of her clan, there's a very abrupt political shift (for magical reasons that I never found adequately explained) and the intensity of the pace picks up dramatically. Following some developments in the subplot with Marcus and some dramatic changes in the Agreement, Aryl and her people take drastic steps to resolve the situation, leading to the event that series readers will have been anticipating for the trilogy. But it's sudden and entirely unsatisfying, and if the book had actually ended there, this review would be much more negative.

Instead, the last part of the book takes us back into the science fiction setting of the previous trilogy and a reasonably entertaining cultural conflict. It felt much more like a Trade Pact story, and since my enjoyment of those stories is why I was reading this trilogy in the first place, I'm totally fine with that. Unfortunately, it's also infuriating because Czerneda forecloses on any answers to the historical questions I've been puzzling over for the whole trilogy. The details of how are spoilers, so I won't get into it except to say that I thought it was a rather cheap and unsatisfying device.

If you came this far in this trilogy, you may as well read the ending. Some pieces of it were moving, and I did enjoy the last part of the story. But this whole trilogy focused on the parts of Aryl's life that I found the least interesting and consistently avoided the questions that Marcus was asking and that I really wanted answered. I hope the following Reunification trilogy revisits this world and provides some resolution.

This is the last book of its trilogy, but there is a sequel trilogy to the earlier Trade Pact trilogy in the same universe that starts with This Gulf of Time and Stars, and it promises to tie the two trilogies together.

Rating: 5 out of 10


Volumes 7 and 8 Are Here! [Skin Horse]

Shaenon: Look at this! Skin Horse Volumes 7 and 8 are in from the printer and available at the Couscous Store. Everyone who backed these books on Kickstarter will be receiving their copies and other good stuff soon. Thank you all so much!

Channing: In a very literal way, you guys made this happen. Our deepest thanks.

Saturday, 16 November


Andrew Cater: Seems like I only ever write something at CD release time ... Buster release 2 is happening round about now [Planet Debian]

Updating CD images again for Buster release 2. I've spent a happy day chasing down various CD images and discovering my ignorance once again :)

Thanks to Sledge for having me around and also to Schweer - who wasn't feeling so well. No RattusRattus or Isy this time round - that meant I got to do a little more but I do miss their company.

All looks set fair for CD, DVD images and so on: the Jigdo16GB and the BD-1 isos built from jigdo files also worked well for me. This is getting to be a slick process and it's good to be a part of it.

And another one in a few months, I suspect :)


Raising legal funds to defend an online sf shared world that's been stolen by a Russian trademark troll [Cory Doctorow – Boing Boing]

SCP Foundation is an online shared world whose members create delightful fiction, movies, games and other media about. It's a sprawling, global, friendly phenomenon, licensed under Creative Commons.

But its very looseness and lack of formal corporate structures also leaves it vulnerable to trademark trolling. Now, a Russian fraudster has registered trademarks for SCP within the Eurasian Customs Union and is sending legal threats to SCP members who sell SCP merchandise, as well as violating the community's Creative Commons licenses by republishing works stripped of the license.

The fraudster has shut down the legitimate SCP community in Russia, and has demanded that the Russian SCP wiki be turned over to him so he can use it to advertise his own line of SCP merch. The volunteer SCP organization is now raising funds for a legal battle with the troll. They're at about $23,000 as of this writing (they've been live for 9 hours), and seeking $50,000 for what may be a very protracted battle indeed.

I donated.

A Russian man has illegally registered an illegitimate trademark for SCP within the Eurasian Customs Union. He has used this trademark to threaten and extort legitimate sellers of SCP merchandise. In addition, he has committed copyright infringement by violating the SCP content license: Creative Commons Share-alike 3.0. We first updated the community about this situation 6 months ago, and now it has escalated.

This man has recently resumed his efforts to threaten and extort competitors, and has now begun to threaten SCP itself. He used the illegitimate trademark to shut down the official social media page of the Russian branch of the SCP Foundation Wiki, as well as a separate fan-page. We attempted to negotiate with VK, the social media company in question, but so long as the trademark registration stands they will abide by it. Now, he has followed this by making a ridiculous demand to be administrator of the Russian wiki, and that said wiki be twisted into an advertisement for his merchandise rather than the writing community that it is.

These actions threaten not only the Russian wiki, but every SCP branch, writer, and fan around the world. We stand with SCP-RU, reject these threats, and are organizing a lawsuit to annul his false trademark, prevent copyright infringement, and protect the community. As an organization of volunteers, this is a measure we do not often pursue due to the costs involved.

SCP Legal Funds [John Beattie/Gofundme]


Disney Wants to Reinforce Its ‘Piracy Intelligence’ Team [TorrentFreak]

This week Disney launched its new streaming platform which immediately gained millions of subscribers.

At the same time, there was plenty of interest in ‘unauthorized’ Disney+ releases on pirate sites, particularly in the exclusive Mandalorian series.

As one of the largest entertainment companies in the world, Disney is not new to piracy. It has dealt with this issue for decades. However, now that it operates its own exclusive platform there are other factors to take into account.

How do exclusive releases impact piracy rates, for example? And what is the effect on subscriber rates? How the interplay between legal and illegal supply affects revenues can be a complex and dynamic puzzle to solve.

What is clear is that Disney has the goal to minimize piracy. While it’s not publicized much, the company has a dedicated “piracy intelligence” team that continually keeps an eye on the piracy landscape.

Just recently, a new vacancy opened up, perhaps tied to the launch of Disney+. While there are few details available, Disney describes the team as follows:

“The Piracy Intelligence team at The Walt Disney Studios is based in Burbank and provides meaningful piracy insights to inform strategies that maximize revenue for the film and TV business and minimize the piracy impact.”

Disney is currently looking for a market research and data analyst, who will be responsible for supporting a variety of “piracy intelligence initiatives” and to “measure movie and TV viewing trends across digital media platforms.”

Unfortunately, there is not much information online about the goals and accomplishments of Disney’s anti-piracy team. TorrentFreak reached out to multiple contacts at the company, but thus far we have yet to receive a response.

It’s no secret, however, that major entertainment companies keep a close eye on the pirate landscape.

The enforcement side of this is often quite visible. This is also true for Disney. The company is a member of the global anti-piracy coalition ACE, which has filed several lawsuits and chases site owners and developers as well.

However, piracy “intelligence” can also be used as a valuable market signal. That aspect would be more in line with the “market research” and “data analyst” Disney is currently looking for.

This type of piracy use wouldn’t be unique. Previously we reported how Netflix uses piracy to figure out how much they can charge in a country, as well as what content they license. Similarly, Hulu uses piracy data to see what is popular among potential viewers.

Disney may use similar signals to determine how to best position Disney+ and what content it should offer to minimize piracy, and perhaps more importantly, maximize revenue.

While I have no intention of applying for the job, one free bit of advice is to make sure that Disney+ is available everywhere in the world. Right now, many people feel left out which makes pirated Disney+ exclusives quite tempting.

But I guess the intelligence team will notice that soon enough.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.


Molly de Blanc: Rebellion [Planet Debian]

We spend a lot of time focusing on the epic side of free software and user freedom: joys come from providing encrypted communication options to journalists and political dissidents; losses are when IoT devices are used to victimize and abuse.

I think a lot about the little ways technology interacts with our lives, the threats to or successes for user freedom we encounter in regular situations that anyone can find themselves able to understand: sexting with a secure app, sharing  DRM-free piece of media, or having your communications listened to by a “home assistant.”

When I was writing a talk about ethics and IoT, I was looking for these small examples of the threats posed by smart doorbells. False arrests and racial profiling, deals with law enforcement to monitor neighborhoods, the digital panopticon — these are big deals. I remembered something I read about kids giving their neighbor a pair of slippers for Christmas. This sort of anonymous gift giving becomes impossible when your front door is constantly being monitored. People laughed when I shared this idea with them — that we’re really losing something by giving up the opportunity to anonymously leave presents.

We are also giving up what my roommate calls “benign acts of rebellion.” From one perspective, making it harder for teenagers to sneak out at night is a good thing. Keeping better tabs on your kids and where they are is a safety issue. Being able to monitor what they do on their computer can prevent descent into objectively bad communities and behavior patterns, but it can also prevent someone from participating in the cultural coming of age narratives that help define who we are as a society and give us points of connection across generations.

People sneak out. People go places their parents don’t want them to. People stay up late at night reading or playing video games. People explore their sexuality by looking at porn when they’re underage. People do things their parents don’t want them to, and these are things their parents are increasingly able to prevent them from doing using technology.

I met someone at a conference who was talking about potentially installing a camera into the bedroom of their pubescent child — the same kind designed to allow parents to monitor their babies at night — because their child was playing video games when they “should be sleeping.”

This appalled me, but one of the things that really struck me was how casually they said it. Technology made it not a big deal. They already had one in their baby’s room, putting another in seemed simple.

I would happily argue all the epic points that come out of this: creating a surveillance state, normalizing the reality of being monitored, controlling behavior and creating a docile population. These are real threats, but also, seriously, poor sleep hygiene is just a thing teenagers do and it’s okay.

These benign acts of rebellion — staying up later than we’re told to, chatting with our friends when we’re not “supposed to” — are not just important points of cultural connection, but also just important for our own individual development. Making mistakes, doing dumb things, acting the fool, and learning from all of this is important in the process of defining ourselves. Technology should not be used to hinder our personal growth, especially when it offers to many opportunities for us to better explore who we are, or makes it safer for us to continue to rebel in the myriad ways we always have. Rebellion is important to our narratives — it’s certainly integral to mine. I hope that people younger than me don’t lose that because of the fear others hold.


Link [Scripting News]

Are there any good impeachment podcasts?


Urgent: Restore the DACA program [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

US citizens: call on the Senate to restore the DACA program, that allows people brought to the US as children to remain and become citizens.

If you sign, please spread the word!

Social-credit score systems in America [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Various little-known companies are setting up America's embryonic social-credit score systems. Well-known internet dis-services give them data, and they make the derived scores or ratings available to those dis-services and others.

Requiring these companies to give you the raw data they store about you will only give you a partial idea of just how much power they wield. To reduce their power would require reducing their data collection.

Fraud is not a good thing, and in principle I am in favor of preventing fraud, but doing it by prejudging people (often based on bias along with the data) is not a solution. We should adopt solutions that respect anonymity and stop fraud — such as GNU Taler — so that there is no need to guess who might be likely to commit fraud.

Firefighting in Australia [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Australia's firefighters are worn out after two months working with little chance to sleep. But the fires are not finished.

Australians must insist on curbing global heating now, for otherwise it will get much, much worse.


Dirk Eddelbuettel: RcppEigen [Planet Debian]

A new minor release of RcppEigen arrived on CRAN today (and just went to Debian too) bringing support for Eigen 3.3.7 to R.

This release comes almost a year after the previous minor release Besides the upgrade to the new upstream version, it brings a few accumulated polishes to the some helper and setup functions, and switches to the very nice tinytest package for unit tests; see below for the full list. As before, we carry a few required changes to Eigen in a diff. And as we said before at the previous two releases:

One additional and recent change was the accomodation of a recent CRAN Policy change to not allow gcc or clang to mess with diagnostic messages. A word of caution: this may make your compilation of packages using RcppEigen very noisy so consider adding -Wno-ignored-attributes to the compiler flags added in your ~/.R/Makevars.

The complete NEWS file entry follows.

Changes in RcppEigen version (2019-11-16)

  • Fixed skeleton package creation listing RcppEigen under Imports (James Balamuta in #68 addressing #16).

  • Small RNG use update to first example in skeleton package used by package creation helper (Dirk addressing #69).

  • Update vignette example to use RcppEigen:::eigen_version() (Dirk addressing #71).

  • Correct one RcppEigen.package.skeleton() corner case (Dirk in #77 fixing #75).

  • Correct one usage case with pkgKitten (Dirk in #78).

  • The package now uses tinytest for unit tests (Dirk in #81).

  • Upgraded to Eigen 3.3.7 (Dirk in #82 fixing #80).

Courtesy of CRANberries, there is also a diffstat report for the most recent release.

If you like this or other open-source work I do, you can now sponsor me at GitHub. For the first year, GitHub will match your contributions.

This post by Dirk Eddelbuettel originated on his Thinking inside the box blog. Please report excessive re-aggregation in third-party for-profit settings.

Randall "XKCD" Munroe has a New York Times column where he answers weird science questions [Cory Doctorow – Boing Boing]

Randall Munroe's "Good Question" column in the New York Times is in the vein of his How To and What If books, in which he answers weird science questions with equally weird thoroughness.

In his inaugural column, Munroe answers: "If I Touched the Moon, What Would It Feel Like?"

Touching lunar rocks inside a spacecraft, or in a museum, is one thing; removing a glove and exposing yourself to the vacuum of space is another. In science fiction, terrible things befall such astronauts: their blood boils away, their insides get sucked out.

But removing a glove wouldn’t necessarily be instantly fatal. For the most part, human skin is tough enough to handle brief exposure to a vacuum. If you had a custom spacesuit with a seal around your forearm, you could probably remove your glove during a moonwalk without suffering permanent damage.

It definitely wouldn’t be comfortable. In 1960, during a high-altitude balloon test, Air Force Col. Joe Kittinger’s pressure glove sprang a leak, exposing his right hand to near-vacuum conditions for several hours. His hand swelled up and went numb, but he suffered no permanent damage.

If I Touched the Moon, What Would It Feel Like? [Randall Munroe/New York Times]

(via Kottke)

Majority of Americans know they're under constant surveillance, don't trust the companies doing it, and feel helpless to stop it [Cory Doctorow – Boing Boing]

A Pew Study found that 60% of Americans believe that they are being continuously tracked by companies and the government, 69% mistrust the companies doing the tracking, 80% believe that advertisers and social media sites are collecting worrisome data, 79% think the companies lie about breaches, and 80% believe that nothing they do will make a difference.

Among Black people, the stats are (justifiably) grimmer: 73% of Black users worry about law-enforcement abuse of their data (it's only 56% of white Americans).

This may seem like bad news, but there's a silver lining. For decades, privacy activists have struggled to convince people to care about online surveillance -- thanks to inaction, people can't help but care, because they are being harmed in ways large and small on the regular.

This is the Peak Indifference moment, when denialism threatens to slide into nihilism ("OK, OK, I believe your story about declining rhino populations, but since there's only one left, why don't we find out what he tastes like?"). It's the moment when an activist's job changes from convincing people that there's a problem to convincing them that it's not too late to do something about it.

It means that there is a public appetite for change, and that lawmakers and regulators who propose meaningful privacy rules will find support for it -- and that businesses that offer privacy-friendly tools will find markets for them.

What’s next? There are some moves in the right direction. Google’s deal with Ascension has already sparked a federal probe. The California attorney general has been investigating Facebook for privacy violations. Activists are working to stop facial recognition from being used by both the public and private sectors. Some Democrats have introduced legislation that would give the Federal Trade Commission power to fine tech companies up to 4% of their annual revenue for privacy violations, which is a much bigger amount than current fines. Others have proposed a new federal agency to deal with digital privacy. So there’s more attention being paid to privacy than ever before. Still, it’s true that the average consumer can’t do a lot about personal data being collected, and it’ll be a while before that really changes.

Most Americans think they’re being constantly tracked—and that there’s nothing they can do [MIT Tech Review]

Americans and Privacy: Concerned, Confused and Feeling Lack of Control Over Their Personal Information [Brooke Auxier, Lee Rainie, Monica Anderson, Andrew Perrin, Madhu Kumar and Erica Turner/Pew]

(via /.)

Supercut of British voters insulting Boris Johnson on the campaign trail [Cory Doctorow – Boing Boing]

Presenting: Boris Johnson Gets Out of London and Talks to People Who Are Not Rich Remainers: The Essential Collection.

Christ, what an asshole.


Today in GPF History for Saturday, November 16, 2019 [General Protection Fault: The Comic Strip]

Despite his objections, the rumor that Nick had a sex dream about Sharon spreads...


american.newbie [Scripting News]

Everywhere I've lived people greet outsiders mostly generously but there are always some who don't.

I've moved so much geographically and in what I do, over my 64 years, I have a lot of experience with it.

Silicon Valley welcomed me in 1979. The people who lived there before the various booms were farmers. Lots or orchards. Small towns, it looked like the Central Valley in Calif today. My family drove through there when I was ten years old and I remember it. In the first 20 years I was there, I felt like I had come home. Everyone was into the same things I was, personal computers, software designed for humans, and it was all so new, so much potential, so much to explore. But it already looked like Long Island. And traffic like you wouldn't believe got worse every year. Was it ruined by newcomers? Hard to say. Maybe it achieved its destiny. I left in 2003 because I more or less hated what it had become.

While I was there, I got involved peripherally with Napster when it was booming. I was fascinated. My blog was well-read in tech, so I got to know a lot of music people in that period, not always in a friendly way. Ultimately I think they would have done better if they listened and accepted that change was inevitable, and they could profit from it. People were actively interested in music in ways I had never seen. But the insiders desperately didn't want it to change. Is it better that now we can all program our own music? I feel very strongly -- yes. It's hard to imagine that when I grew up I was limited to what was played on the radio and what I could afford to buy. There was so much more music. And music is so personal. All that potential opened up as Napster broke the dam. It was incredible for the users. The people who make and sell music didn't appreciate that or respect that.

My own family are immigrants. My parents and grandparents landed in Queens and Brooklyn as refugees during WWII, running for their lives from the Nazis. We were not universally welcomed. Lots of antisemitism. I grew up ashamed of my heritage, because I took on the attitudes people had about us.

A funny thing happened, as my mother was getting old. The neighborhood she had lived in since the 1960s was turning from Irish, Italian with a little Jewish, to Asian -- Chinese and Korean. And my mom, born in Prague, an American newbie, was angry about the changes that were coming. I was amazed to see this, because she was a very inclusive sort of person, welcoming, and sought out different experiences. And of course she had herself benefited from a country that had its doors open to anyone. When she died, and it came time to sell the house, the neighbors next door begged us not to sell to an Asian family. They were also refugees. I said nothing but I thought it was both futile and hypocritical.

I guess if I lived anywhere for long enough to resent newbies it would be on the net. I started using it as a grad student in the 70s. I've been through every iteration, and yes -- there's a point at which the area you've learned to call home becomes overrun with newbies. They have no idea about the culture you've developed, and they don't seem to care. They do the equivalent of leaving broken glass and dirty diapers at our pristine swimming holes. It sucks.

Facebook is, to me, the Land of the Newbies, the way AOL was 30 years ago. But I love FB the community (I do not love FB the company, though I know a number of people who work there, some of whom I consider lifetime friends). I especially love the Woodstock group, because it's filled with love, and I've benefited so much from it. I'm not kidding. 99.99 percent of my interactions there over the last year or so have been lovely. And I've learned so much about the place I now call home, far more than I could have without the group. It's changed the way I think about local news. Friends who work in journalism don't understand the role FB groups play, and they're not listening any better than the music industry people did in Napster days.

I have friends who remember the net before FB as I do who will not use FB. They say they got along fine without it before, and will be fine now. No doubt. But they're missing something huge and cultural, and eventually the software they make will be irrelevant because they failed to move where the culture was going.

Humans dealing with change. A constant. We don't always do it well. God bless our pointy heads.

PS: I cross-posted this on FB because it's so much about FB.


How to Have Time For a Life [Whatever]

On Twitter this morning, the following tweet:

I looked at the tweet and realized that, in fact, I am an adult who mostly manages to do all of those thing (that is, when the cats don’t wake me up at 3am to show me their butts and then I can’t get back to sleep). It made me curious as to what factors allow me to do all of them.

And I have answers! One of them is very general, and the others are specific to me. I answered the very general one in a tweet as well:

The reason that money can increase your bandwidth is that it can let you buy solutions to time-sucking activities. This often in the form of people you pay to do things, but also in the form of goods and services that let you spend less time doing things you don’t want to do (which then leaves time for the things you do want to do). Money also lets you do things like live in nice neighborhoods with fancy stores that have organic meats and produce, go to the gyms with trainers, have decent healthcare, enjoy the wherewithal for hobbies, etc. Money solves problems, and problems take time, so: money makes time.

Sometimes. As noted in the tweet, to make money one often has to be the sort of personality that overcommits to work and/or have the sort of job one never actually gets to leave even when one is not “at work,” so the mere presence of money in one’s life does not mean that one will automatically have any of those six goals enumerated above. Money can solve problems, but the pursuit of money itself creates its own problems, and the latter can swamp money’s ability to deal with the former. Welcome to the capitalist system.

So that’s the general answer. Specific to me, here are some of the things that allow me to hit all six of those goals:

1. I am well off. See above for what that allows. Also, I am fortunate that I neither have the sort of personality that makes a pleasure of the pursuit of money (I like making money, and recognize the necessity of it in our system, but the act of making is not in itself a dopamine rush for me), nor do I have a job that requires time penalties to make money. Speaking of which:

2. I have a creative job with no set hours that lets me work from home (or anywhere else). I have to produce roughly a novel a year. Once I do that I have other responsibilities relating to the production and promotion of the novel, which take up time but also leave stretches of time unoccupied. The novels can be (and largely are) written at home, which means time usually given over to commutes and presence at a workplace (not to mention things like meetings, client maintenance, etc) are not a factor for me. Which means I can sleep in! And, also, schedule time for exercise. Additionally, the work is portable, so if I do travel, I can theoretically at least take the work with me.

3. I’m an introvert who socializes online and/or whose social life often dovetails with work. Being an introvert means that my need for socializing is less than it might be for other people, and means having social interactions via social media, texting, etc actually works for me a lot of the time. Also, a lot of my “real world” socializing happens at things like science fiction conventions, book fairs/festivals or when I’m on a book tour, which is nice because a) in the case of conventions and festivals, there are other publishing pros (writers, editors, etc, and also members of SF/F fandom) who I like who are also there and happy to hang out, b) on tour I see friends in their hometowns. This makes social activities both schedulable and pleasant. Also, you know. On a daily basis I see my wife, whose company I like, and my daughter is nearby too, and I also like her a lot.

4. My hobbies dovetail into my life rather than require space to be made for them. My current hobbies are photography, music and writing. All of them work pretty well with my work/life flow — photography I can do opportunistically as I travel or do other things, music I get to incorporate with my social activities (for example, I now frequently DJ dances at science fiction conventions), and as for writing… well, hello. Thank you for reading my hobby. (I don’t count reading as a hobby; for me that’s like saying breathing is a hobby.) There is nothing wrong, and much right, about time-intensive hobbies like, say, bird-watching or mountain climbing or community theater. But I don’t do those. The hobbies I do have are, for me, low-impact/high-reward, timewise.

5. I have a spouse who handles a bunch of stuff. To be clear, I can, and do, do things about the house (I am at home, after all). Also to be clear, the amount she does is not strictly tied into the amount I don’t do — she has her own plans for things that are independent of anything I want/need/desire. But the side effect of that is I don’t have to do a lot of things relating to household upkeep and maintenance. I’m also not going to pretend that, with regard to the work I do, the division is equitable; Krissy does more. I asked her just now if she thought that was an artifact of our personalities, or just garden variety sexism; she said probably both. More specifically, she said “I don’t think you are a sexist, but I think we both sort of fall into some of society’s expectations.” Which was kind of her, to blame the system and not me personally.

6. I’m 50. Which means a lot of set-up for those goals is already in my rear-view mirror, and I’m currently getting the benefit of those set-up exercises. There were times, mostly in my 20s, where I was not close to hitting all of those goals — my social life was a dead zone from when I left college to when I met Krissy, and when I was working at AOL in the 90s, the job sucked all the hours, because the tech ethos of “we put food and a laundry in the building so you never have to leave” is not a new invention. It all paid off, which is nice for me.

7. I’m healthy. Mentally and, aside from a temporary case of tendonitis, physically. This is not a value judgment; I’m not a better or more virtuous person for being healthy. It’s recognition that health issues burn lots of hours (and in the US at least, lots of money), and can make it more difficult to achieve those goals.

Add all of this up, and there are two conclusions: One, it is possible for someone to achieve all six of those goals; Two, that to be that someone, it helps to have specific conditions to one’s life.

(Additionally, inasmuch as the sleep goal is one I only intermittently hit, it helps not to have cats waking your ass up at 3am. I did bring the cats into my home, so that’s on me, however.)

I don’t think you have to have my life to achieve all of these goals, mind you, especially if you combine factors. If you’re someone who loves to cook, for example, you can hit three of these with one stone: Throw a dinner party and you get to work on your hobby, socialize and (depending on the menu) eat healthy. If you live somewhere you can bike to work, there’s your daily exercise. And so on. But there are conditions to one’s life which are beneficial to realize those goals.

I do think it’s harder for younger people to get all of these goals lined up. Partly because being younger means having to work crappier jobs that require more from you, and that’s been true in most eras, but in this era in particular, in which jobs are more temporary and are stagnant in wages, and younger people’s debt loads are significantly higher, it’s more of a challenge. Obviously, they’re aware of this inequity, and equally obviously, it’s not fair.

It would be nice to live in a world where all of these goals were more achievable for more people, and more achievable without the time solvent of money. Such a world is possible! We’re not there yet, however. Hopefully activism toward that goal will be more people’s hobby, and they will find a way to make time for it.


Link [Scripting News]

Good morning sports fans!

Link [Scripting News]

I am far from being a billionaire. But I've made good money selling software, real estate and I just inherited a bit of money from my parents. This is what I have to say. I was always amazed at how little I paid in taxes on each of the major events.

Link [Scripting News]

I'm working my way through Mr Robot, starting with season 1 so I can watch the final season without being horribly confused. But all of a sudden there's the final season of Man in the High Castle. Oy. And the third season of The Crown is coming soon.

Link [Scripting News]

BTW, Mr Robot is not about robots. I've heard there is some confusion about this.


Facebook sponsoring Kavanaugh [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Facebook sponsored the rightwing Federalist Society to host a dinner honoring Justice Kavanaugh, who tried to commit rape years ago and lied about it while testifying to Congress.

Selling Alberta bonds for environmental reasons [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Sweden has sold bonds issued by Alberta, because that Canadian state pushes tar sands oil.

It is noteworthy that Alberta complains it is unfeasible to start new energy projects, but I suspect that is an exaggeration. If it were true, the Keystone XL pipeline project would be abandoned.

Lift of Hong Kong highway blockade [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Hong Kong: Protesters Lift Highway Blockade on Proviso [that local] Elections Proceed [as scheduled].

Burning plastic in Indonesia [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Burning imported plastic waste in Indonesia spreads toxic chemicals in the neighborhood. The toxins then get into local chickens and their eggs.

Abandoned mines methane leaks [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Coal mines leak lots of methane — even after the mining stops.

Does anyone know how to stop the methane emissions from an abandoned coal mine?

Violence in Hong Kong [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Both protesters and thugs in Hong Kong are causing deaths with their violence.

I don't know the local conditions in Hong Kong, but I do know that violence on the part of protesters tends to lead to defeat as it gives the state an excuse.

Markets role [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

"Capitalism" and "socialism" are vague words. Bernie Sanders's views can be considered to fit either one. The article says that the real question is,

"if we say markets will play some limited role — as opposed to gobbling up all of society like they do now — then we're not really saying anything until we start laying down specifics."

Miners transition [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

As the Coal Industry Shrinks, Miners Deserve A Just Transition. This means developing ways to support the ex-coal-miners other than mining coal.

Fighting the border-industrial complex [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Fighting the border-industrial complex, which profits from the disasters that the US causes in other countries, which drive people to flee.


EU Court to Decide on BitTorrent Questions in Copyright Trolling Case [TorrentFreak]

During the summer we reported on the renewed efforts of Golden Eye (International) and Mircom, companies with a track record of targeting alleged BitTorrent pirates with demands for cash settlements to make supposed lawsuits disappear.

After filing no complaints in the UK for years, the pair teamed up in an effort to squeeze the personal details of thousands of Internet users from the hands of ISP Virgin Media. Somewhat unusually given previous compliance in alleged anti-piracy matters, Virgin put up a pretty big fight.

In the end, the cases brought by Golden Eye and Mircom were proven to be so lacking in evidence that a judge in the High Court threw out the companies’ claims. Nevertheless, there are more countries than just the UK to target.

Cyprus-based Mircom (full name Mircom International Content Management & Consulting) has another case on the boil, this time against Telenet, the largest provider of cable broadband in Belgium. In common with previous cases, this one is also about the unlicensed sharing of pornographic movies using BitTorrent.

Mircom says it has thousands of IP addresses on file which can identify Telenet subscribers from which it wants to extract cash payments. However, it needs the ISP’s cooperation to match the IP addresses to those customers and the case isn’t progressing in a straightforward manner.

As a result, the Antwerp Business Court (Ondernemingsrechtbank Antwerpen) has referred several questions in the matter to the European Court of Justice. As usual, there are several controversial as well as technical points under consideration.

The first complication concerns how BitTorrent itself works. When a regular user participates in a BitTorrent swarm, small downloaded parts of a movie are then made available for upload. In this manner, everyone in a swarm can gain access to all of the necessary parts of the movie.

Anyone who obtains all of the parts (and therefore the whole movie) becomes a ‘seeder’ if he or she continues to upload to the swarm.

However, a question with three parts sent to the EU Court appears to seek clarity on whether uploading small pieces of a file, which are unusable in their own right, constitutes an infringement and if so, where the limit lies. It also deals with potential ignorance on the user’s part when it comes to seeding.

1. (a) Can the downloading of a file via a peer-to-peer network and the simultaneous provision for uploading of parts (‘pieces’) thereof (which may be very fragmentary as compared to the whole) (‘seeding’) be regarded as a communication to the public within the meaning of Article 3(1) of Directive 2001/29, (1) even if the individual pieces as such are unusable? If so,

1. (b) is there a de minimis threshold above which the seeding of those pieces would constitute a communication to the public?

1. (c) is the fact that seeding can take place automatically (as a result of the torrent client’s settings), and thus without the user’s knowledge, relevant?

While the above matters are interesting in their own right, it’s Mircom’s position that perhaps provokes the most interest and has resulted in the next pair of questions to the European Court of Justice.

To be clear – Mircom is not a content creator. It is not a content distributor. Its entire purpose is to track down alleged infringers in order to claim cash settlements from them on the basis that its rights have been infringed. So what rights does it have?

Mircom claims to have obtained the rights to distribute, via peer-to-peer networks including BitTorrent, a large number of pornographic films produced by eight American and Canadian companies. However, despite having the right to do so, Mircom says it does not distribute any movies in this fashion.

Instead, it aims to collect money from alleged infringers, returning a proportion of this to the actual copyright holders, to whom it paid absolutely nothing for the rights to ‘distribute’ their movies via BitTorrent.

Interesting to say the least, a situation that has resulted in a second question with two parts being referred to the EUCJ;

2. (a) Can a person who is the contractual holder of the copyright (or related rights), but does not himself exploit those rights and merely claims damages from alleged infringers — and whose economic business model thus depends on the existence of piracy, not on combating it — enjoy the same rights as those conferred by Chapter II of Directive 2004/48 (2) on authors or licence holders who do exploit copyright in the normal way?

2. (b) How can the license holder in that case have suffered ‘prejudice’ (within the meaning of Article 13 of Directive 2004/48) as a result of the infringement?

A third question asks whether the specific circumstances laid out in questions 1 and 2 are relevant when assessing the correct balance between the enforcement of intellectual property rights and the right to a private life and protection of personal data.

Finally, question four deals with a particularly interesting aspect of BitTorrent swarm data monitoring and subsequent data processing in respect of the GDPR.

4. Is, in all those circumstances, the systematic registration and general further processing of the IP-addresses of a ‘swarm’ of ‘seeders’ (by the licence holder himself, and by a third party on his behalf) legitimate under the General Data Protection Regulation and specifically under Article 6(1)(f) thereof?

There are already considerable concerns that the tracking data collected and processed as part of the case in hand may not have been handled as required under the GDPR. That, on top of the conclusion that Mircom fits the ‘copyright troll’ label almost perfectly, makes this a very interesting case to follow.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.


Break the lecture [Seth's Blog]

In 1805, if you listened to music, you heard it live. Every time. Today, perhaps 1% of all the music we hear is live, if that.

In 1805, if you listened to a lecture for school or work, you heard it live. Every time. Today, that’s still true.

That’s crazy.

Ten years ago, Sal Khan pointed out that thanks to the internet, we should have students watching best-in-class lectures at home, after school… and doing their homework together, with teachers, during the day. (HT to Alison King who wrote about this 26 years ago). That hasn’t happened yet, but it should.

If we’re going to persist in creating hyper-expensive live lectures for millions of people every day, perhaps it’s time to change the dynamic. Imagine that there’s an app (I’ll call it Backchannel) and that the lecturer or her assistant has a dashboard.

Every student already has a phone. Let’s put them to use.

The Backchannel app begins by blocking all other apps–by reporting student participation. If we’re going to do this expensive lecture process in real-time, at the very least you can stop checking Facebook.

Second, the lecturer can at any time ask for students to answer a simple question about what’s being discussed. If a lot of students can’t answer the question, time to slow down. On the other hand, the Backchannel app can also act as a tool for students to anonymously let the lecturer (and the system) know that they’re bored. It’s hard to embrace how obvious this is, and yet it doesn’t get done.

The app can show via the dashboard how active each student is, by percentage or even by name.

Questions can stream in from the app, so the lecturer can get a quick view of what needs to be covered.

Students can have a discussion with one another (no private chats, though) about the last few minutes of what was covered. It’s asynchronous and can lead to far more airtime for people who might not be brave enough to raise a hand.

And of course, just as the school is rating the students (that’s a core tenet of the education-industrial complex) the students can rate every lecture, every time. What a dramatic shift in power, in attention and in reporting.

If we ended up with a classroom where the lecturers were on their toes, where students were actively engaged at all times and where the interactions were far more in sync, wouldn’t that be worth the hassle of putting our devices to better use? We can build this and start using it right now, not someday.

If we insist on lectures being the way they’ve always been, which is a one-way recitation, then let’s simply have students watch best-in-class recordings instead of the wasteful act of recreating them live, every time. But if we’re going to do it live, then let’s actually do it live.


[1084] Thinking for Once [Twokinds]

Comic for November 16, 2019



11/15/18 PHD comic: '#nolife' [PHD Comics]

Piled Higher & Deeper by Jorge Cham
Click on the title below to read the comic
title: "#nolife" - originally published 11/15/2018

For the latest news in PHD Comics, CLICK HERE!


Link [Scripting News]

A flight where everyone was watching the impeachment.


Molly de Blanc: Free software activities, October 2019 [Planet Debian]

A belated hello! I was traveling at the end of October and missed this. Apologies!

A beautiful, green Japanese maple tree in front of a Buddhist shrine.

In October, work was quite busy, though a lot of it was behind-the-scenes stuff I cannot yet update you on. It was also very busy with a very exciting trip I took that had absolutely nothing to do with free software. If you’re ever going to Kyoto or Tokyo and looking for some recommendations for coffee, cocktail bars, restaurants, or general things to do, hmu.

Free software activities (personal)

  • I have regular meetings with Patrick Masson, the general manager of the OSI. We made most of them in October.
  • I did some writing for the OSI. Not all of it is published at this point.
  • I worked on crafting drafts of organizational policies for the OSI, including staffing, travel, and a whistle blower policy. I hope to be able to arrange for an HR specialist or employment lawyer to review these.
  • The OSI has two new board members! In order to make this happen, I contacted all of the nominees for whom I had contact information. I spoke with them about the OSI, the Board and it’s activities, and how they saw their potential involvement. Basically I interviewed a bunch of ~fancy~ people. It was so much fun talking with every one of them and I learned so much during the process.
  • The Debian Community Team had some meetings, wrote some emails, and discussed The Future together and with the greater Debian community.
  • I attended All Things Open and spoke about ethics and IoT devices. My slides were puppy themed.
  • I did some philosophy based writing. I got a  lot out of this and hope you did too.
  • I also found out that my brother’s company does some open source work!
  • I submitted to the Open Source Festival 2020 CfP. And you can too!

Free software activities (professional)

  • I attended All Things Open and had one of the most awesome tabling experiences I have had to date! It was such a great crowd at ATO! They took all of our stickers!
  • I had a lot of meetings with some more great people. Thank you everyone who made some time for me!
  • We launched a Patent Troll Defense Fund! I cannot thank the donors enough! It’s so inspiring for me to see the community come together to support a project I really believe in.
  • We’ve been doing a lot of work on this Rothschild Imaging thing.
  • We did some fundraising for Linux Application Summit (which happened this week!).


Cautionary Tales: a new podcast that tells the intriguing stories of historical "mishaps, fiascos and disasters" [Cory Doctorow – Boing Boing]

Economist, author, podcaster and radio presenter Tim Harford (previously) has a fantastic new podcast: Cautionary Tales, which Tim describes as "Eight stories of mishaps, fiascos and disasters - served with a twist of nerdy social science."

I've just listened to the second episode, The Rogue Dressed As a Captain (MP3), which uses the story of the amazing con artist Wilhelm Voigt as a jumping off point for understanding the nuance of Hannah Arendt's "Eichmann in Jerusalem," the Milgram obedience experiment, and the way that frauds and cons work.

The episodes feature full-cast dramatizations bookended by Harford's explanatory interludes -- they're really well done!

Cautionary Tales [Tim Harford]

(Thanks, Tim!)

Friday, 15 November


Friday Squid Blogging: Planctotuethis Squid [Schneier on Security]

Neat video, and an impressive-looking squid. I can't figure out how long it is.

As usual, you can also use this squid post to talk about the security stories in the news that I haven't covered.

Read my blog posting guidelines here.


Developer runs Windows 10 IoT Core on a graphing calculator [OSnews]

An independent developer has managed to hack a Calculator to run Windows 10 operating system, but it’s not a basic or scientific calculator that we normally use. According to the photos, the device is actually the HP’s Prime Graphing Calculator which comes with a touch screen interface, and good industrial design. The photos shared by the developer Ben shows off Windows 10 IoT (Internet of Things) edition running on the HP Prime Graphing Calculator. Perhaps not the most useful hack in the world, but still very cool.

Supreme Court agrees to review disastrous ruling on API copyrights [OSnews]

Ars Technica reports: The Supreme Court has agreed to review one of the decade’s most significant software copyright decisions: last year’s ruling by an appeals court that Google infringed Oracle’s copyrights when Google created an independent implementation of the Java programming language. The 2018 ruling by the Federal Circuit appeals court “will upend the longstanding expectation of software developers that they are free to use existing software interfaces to build new computer programs,” Google wrote in its January petition to the Supreme Court. In a sane world, this idiotic ruling would be overturned and Larry Ellison cries in his huge pile of money. Sadly, this world is far from sane, so this could really go either way.


Link [Scripting News]

Enes Kanter speaks. Please listen.

Link [Scripting News]

How fucked is the United States? Let's find out! There should be hearings like this for years, covering the corruption of the Trumps.

Link [Scripting News]

Very confused about Jimmy Wales' supposed Facebook/Twitter competitor, WT:Social. What is the monthly fee? And what is it behind the paywall? Tech journalism is basically nonexistent these days. It does not actually appear to be a competitor of Facebook/Twitter, more like Reddit.

News Post: Carbonated [Penny Arcade]

Tycho: Something people who like Star Wars sometimes discuss is the prevalence of Carbonite Freezing in the setting’s various Expanded Universe excursions.  It’s undeniably one of the more rad things about Empire - and the Han that emerges from that device is decidedly more horrifying than the one we see in Jabba’s palace.  It’s a skin-tight sarcophagus.  There are a lot of things to be scared of here.  But it’s so novel, so experimental, that Han is simply a test of the device.  The implication is that it’s not common.  But it seems…


"Hope literacy," "functional denial" and other ways to keep going in this difficult time [Cory Doctorow – Boing Boing]

Earth Island News's interview with climate scientist and activist Susanne Moser is excellent, especially on how "hope literacy" (understanding different the flavors of hope) and "functional denial" ("being fully aware and conscious and not denying the gravity of what we’re creating" while still getting the work done) can allow you to retain your mental equilibrium in these difficult and often terrifying times.

What's interesting is that I've come to understand uncertainty as a necessary condition for hope. If you're perfectly certain that “It’s going to be fine” or “It’s going to be hell,” you don’t need hope, because you know exactly what’s going to happen.

And what people like Trump and other radical right-wingers in particular promise is a kind of certainty: “America is going to be great again, it’s going to be purely white, and we’re going to have great economy and we’re the best.” That’s all a form of certainty.

Whereas, “The future is going to look very different, and I can't tell you how, but we’re going to have to go through that together and figure it out and create it — that’s uncertainty, that requires work. It’s very unpopular.

Despairing about the Climate Crisis? Read This. [Laurie Mazur/Earth Island News]

(Image: Susanne Moser)

(Thanks, Dad!)

Cop violently arrests and terrorizes a 15 year old Black quadruple amputee [Cory Doctorow – Boing Boing]

A sheriff's deputy in Pima, AZ was video-recorded wrestling with and screaming at a 15 year old Black teenager with no arms or legs; the cop, who was not named, was called to a group home where the teen lived, because the teen had been upset and yelling and shouting, and had knocked over a trash can.

Immanuel, the child whom the policeman abused, has been in state custody since he was abandoned by his parents, and lives in the group home.

A 16 year old teen who also lived in the group home, made a covert video-recording of the police violence from another room. He was also arrested by the sheriff's deputy.

The video shows the officer repeatedly tackling and pinning the shirtless Immanuel, who is visibly upset and in pain. The officer screams abuse at the child, and at other children present during his assault on Immanuel.

The video ends with the cop arresting the child who made the video recording (another child takes his phone and continues shooting); without warning, the cop takes the handcuffed child and smashes his head into a wall.

Both children were jailed for "disorderly conduct." The officer was not wearing a bodycam.

When the video surfaced, it reduced a room full of hardened public defenders to tears. After the video was aired, charges against the children were dropped.

As Immanuel's public defender noted, the children in the group home have already been traumatized and have been taken from their families to protect them from further trauma.

The Pima Sheriff's Department said it had not been aware of the misconduct and has promised to investigate.

At the video's start, a white deputy in wraparound sunglasses can be seen kneeling on the ground and holding the black teenager in a headlock. Immanuel grows increasingly upset, his voice rising to a frantic shriek as he tells the officer not to hold him down.

When the deputy loosens his grip, Immanuel tries to shake him off and break free, but he doesn't get far. The officer tackles him, wrapping his arms around the teenager and practically lying on top of him as he wrestles him to the floor. An uncomfortable minute passes as the quadruple amputee swears and screams at the deputy, who uses one forearm to hold him pressed to the ground.

WATCH: Teenage quadruple amputee wrestled to ground by deputy [Bud Foster/KOLD]

Video showing teen with no arms or legs being tackled and pinned by deputy prompts Arizona investigation [Antonia Noori Farzan/The Washington Post]

(Thanks, No Name!)

Crowdfunding to help science fiction great Mike Resnick pay off the medical bills from a near-death experience [Cory Doctorow – Boing Boing]

Mitch Wagner writes, "Talented and prolific science fiction writer and editor Mike Resnick, who has written extensively over the course of a long career about colonialism and its legacies, with a particular focus and love for Africa, has had a near-death experience and started a GoFundMe to pay off his medical expenses. I'm a huge fan of Resnick, particularly his novel Santiago and African stories, and I'm saddened to learn about this."

Resnick's crowdfunder is nearly at its goal -- $27k out of $30k as of this writing -- but this is an important reminder of the urgency of Medicare for All. America is a country where even very successful artists who don't start out rich can have all they've worked for stripped away in an instant by a freak medical occurrence. Resnick is just one of many beloved artists in this situation, and crowdfunding is not a sustainable solution.

I chipped into Mike's fund, but I'm also continuing to give money to the two Medicare for All candidates for the Democratic party in the 2020 presidential election: Bernie Sanders and Elizabeth Warren.

Mike unfortunately spent most of the first half of 2019 in the hospital. At the start of the year he fell twice for some (then) unknown reason, the second time being unable to get up. Carol, his wife, had to call 911 and it was determined that he had pneumonia and acute idiopathic pericarditis. In three days he had 30 pounds of fluid drained from around his heart and lungs. Then, a couple of months later, he collapsed again and within 24 hours the hospital had removed his colon (large intestine). Not many seventy-seven-year-olds recover from such serious medical complications, and he is very lucky to be alive and writing today.

Although he is still confined to a wheelchair, Mike has just this month gone back to writing and editing, and his doctors are very pleased with his progress. But he did go more than half of this year without any income, and as you can imagine the hospital bills are many and prohibitively expensive, as well as half a year’s worth of living expenses. He also still needs regular rehabilitation sessions (luckily, from the comfort of his home), and, quite frankly, he needs the assistance of the community of writers and readers he has had the privilege to call his family for more than half a century.

Help Mike Resnick pay off a near-death experience [Mike Resnick/Gofundme]

(Thanks, Mitch!)


Four short links: 15 November 2019 [Radar]

  1. From Serverless to Elixir — always interesting to hear about other people’s technical journeys. I don’t recall the exceptions off hand because this was the quickest I’ve ever shut down a multi-variate test or rolled back code, but I drove the Logger straight into the ground. Request times sky rocketed, memory went off the rails, and I started seeing all sorts of crashes in the Logger process. Steam started coming out of everything and I swear I saw a sprocket fly off. I kinda backed away slowly from that approach.
  2. The Companies Venture Capital Isn’t Allowed to Invest InThe case of JUUL is quite divisive, and one I don’t have a major opinion to add on. There’s absolutely questions that need to be asked about underage use, and whether the product was designed to appeal to underage users. In these sorts of cases, VCs bear some responsibility for negative behavior when they support founders and decisions which go against the interests of society. Well, with firm and clear moral stances like this, I’m sure absolutely nothing can go wrong.
  3. The Difference Between Quick and Full Format of a Disk — far more than you ever wanted to know, but it’s surprising how much it turns out that you DO want to know about this.
  4. How Figma’s Multiplayer Technology Works — another “inside our tech” story, with a good explanation of pros and cons of the decisions they made. A favorite saying of mine is: “experience is a hard master, but fools will have no other.” Reading other people’s experiences is a much gentler master.


[$] Keeping memory contents secret []

One of the many responsibilities of the operating system is to help processes keep secrets from each other. Operating systems often fail in this regard, sometimes due to factors — such as hardware bugs and user-space vulnerabilities — that are beyond their direct control. It is thus unsurprising that there is an increasing level of interest in ways to improve the ability to keep data secret, perhaps even from the operating system itself. The MAP_EXCLUSIVE patch set from Mike Rapoport is one example of the work that is being done in this area; it also shows that the development community has not yet really begun to figure out how this type of feature should work.


New Books and ARCs, 11/15/19 [Whatever]

Hey, you look like you could use a nice big stack of new books and ARCs to peruse. So here one is! What here is drawing your eye? Tell us all in the comments.


Page 7 [Flipside]

Page 7 is done.


Romain Perier: Capitole du Libre 2019 [Planet Debian]

Hi !

The Capitole Du Libre is a french event that takes place at INP-ENSEEIHT in Toulouse. It is an event dedicated to free and open source softwares. The Capitole Du Libre 2019 will happen this weekend on 16th-17th November.

There will be a Debian booth with the DebianFrance team, I will be there to help them. A lot of interesting talks will be presented, see the schedule here.

Viveris, my company, is a gold sponsor this year. During the year, some of my contributions are sponsorised by my company. Viveris also sponsorised the demo I am going to present at the Debian booth, many thanks to her !

Performative Oppression [George Monbiot]

The government proposes the cultural cleansing of the Romani and Traveller life from Britain.

By George Monbiot, published in the Guardian 13th November 2019

This is how it begins: with a theatrical attack on a vulnerable minority. It’s a Conservative tradition, during election campaigns, to vilify Romani Gypsies and Travellers: it tends to play well on the doorsteps of Middle England. But what the Home Secretary, Priti Patel, proposed last week is something else. It amounts to legislative cleansing.

The consultation document she released on the last day of Parliament aims to “test the appetite to go further” than any previous laws. It suggests that the police should be able immediately to confiscate the vehicles of “anyone whom they suspect to be trespassing on land with the purpose of residing on it”. Until successive Conservative governments began working on it, trespass was a civil and trivial matter. Now it is treated as a crime so serious that on mere suspicion you can lose your home.

When I say “you”, obviously I don’t mean you, unless you are a Romani Gypsy, a traditional Traveller or a New Traveller. If you’re on holiday in your caravan, it does not affect you. It applies only if you have “intent to reside” in your vehicle “for any period”. In other words, it is specifically aimed at travelling peoples. It is clearly and deliberately discriminatory.

It’s true that some people have sometimes behaved appallingly, damaging places, leaving litter and abusing residents. But there are already plenty of laws to prosecute these crimes. The government’s proposal, criminalising the use of any place without planning permission for Romani and Travellers to stop, would exterminate the travelling life.

The consultation acknowledges that there is nowhere else for these communities to go, other than the council house waiting list, which means abandoning the key elements of their culture. During the Conservative purge in the late 1980s and early 1990s, two thirds of traditional, informal stopping sites for travellers, some of which had been in use for thousands of years, were sealed off. Then, in 1994, the Criminal Justice Act repealed the duty of local authorities to provide official sites.

Over the past few weeks in Grimsby, Lincolnshire, local people have been debating the merits of the council’s proposal for an official transit site for travelling people. According to one of the councillors, there have been threats to stone, bottle and petrol bomb anyone who uses it, if planning permission is granted. For centuries Romani and Travellers have been hounded from parish to parish, suffering prejudice and bigotry as extreme as any group faces. Now the government is stoking it.

Patel’s proposed laws belong to the most dangerous of all political categories: performative oppression. She is beating up a marginalised group in full public view, to show that she sides with the majority. I don’t know whether she really intends to introduce these laws, or whether this is empty electioneering. In either case, she is playing with fire. Already this month, three caravans in Somerset have been torched by suspected arsonists. Travelling peoples have been attacked like this for centuries, and sometimes murdered. In 2003, a 15-year-old Traveller child, Johnny Delaney, was kicked to death by a gang of teenagers. One of them is reported to have explained to a passer-by, “he was only a fucking Gypsy.”

I asked a traditional Traveller how Patel’s legislation would affect her. Briony (not her real name) told me she has ploughed her life savings into her motorhome, which she parks out of people’s way, beside roads within easy reach of her children’s school. She has good relations with local people, many of whom know her and see her as part of the community. But none of this will help.

If this proposal becomes law, “the police will have the power to kick my door in, take my home, arrest me and take the children into care. We won’t get them back because we won’t have a home. Because of my work, I can’t afford a criminal record. When I walk out of the police station, I will have no home, no assets, no children and no career.” It would also leave her without state protection. “Sometimes we’ve had to call the police when we’re on the receiving end of hate crimes. This legislation would mean we had to go under the radar.” Understandably, she is terrified.

She has nowhere else to go. “There’s one transit site half an hour away, but you can stay there only for 28 days a year. So my only option is roadside. Roadside is our cultural heritage.” Stopping by the road has already been made extremely stressful and precarious by existing laws. Patel’s proposal would stamp it out altogether. It would end a migratory tradition that’s as old as humanity.

As Briony points out, this is collective punishment. “The majority of us are minding our own business. We’re providing our own housing, not relying on the government. But everything I do that’s positive is lost in people’s minds. Most people I meet have no idea I’m a Traveller. We’re invisible until we do something wrong. Then people notice we’re Travellers.”

A week before Priti Patel launched her consultation, the Weiner Holocaust Library in London opened its exhibition on the Porajmos: the genocide of Roma and Sinti people carried out by the Nazis. It shows how ancient prejudices were mobilised to destroy entire peoples. I’m not saying that this is how the situation will unfold in this country, but the exhibition shows us the worst that can happen when the state sanctions the demonisation of an outgroup. First they came for the Travellers …


Hong Kong protesters' little stonehenges impede police cars [Cory Doctorow – Boing Boing]

More tactical diversity from the Hong Kong protests: "trilithons" -- little stonehenges made of bricks or pavers that impede police vehicles. (Image: thumbnail from Ryan Ho Kilpatrick) (Thanks, Jeff!)

Thanks to an article about why science fiction great John M Ford's books are out of print, they're coming back [Cory Doctorow – Boing Boing]

John M Ford -- AKA Mike Ford -- (previously) was a spectacular and varied science fiction writer who performed brilliantly across a wide range of genres and formats, from RPGs (GURPS, Paranoia) to licensed Star Trek fiction (his "How Much for Just the Planet" effectively created Klingon fandom) to fantasy novels like The Dragon Waiting, which grip and delight the reader in ways to rival George RR Martin or Ursula K LeGuin.

Mike died in 2006 and his work has largely disappeared from print since, with battered copies of cheap paperbacks commanding hundreds of dollars in the used book market. I heard many stories about why his books were no longer available, and the prevailing narrative was that his religious, estranged parents were suppressing it, out of disapproval for Mike's polyamorous relationship with Elise Matheson (herself a brilliant writer and wonderful person), whose lack of legal standing meant that Elise was not given any legal right to control his literary estate.

This ghastly situation has been widely known in science fiction, and was behind a movement, spearheaded by Neil Gaiman (a dear friend of Mike's) to get writers to make out wills dictating the future of their literary estates (John Scalzi is my literary executor for this reason!).

Slate's Isaac Butler discovered Mike's books three years ago and set out to find out why they were no longer in print. In the course of researching the story, Butler discovered that the truth was more complex than the received wisdom about religious intolerance suppressing the works of a beloved author. It turned out that Mike's books were out of print due to a nebulous (and ultimately impossible to pin down) combination of familial estrangement, Mike's own disorganization, and the fact that his agent basically quit the field when he died (again, for complex reasons, some of which relate to heartbreak at Mike's death).

All of this leads to a wonderful coda: Butler's reporting ended up reconnecting Mike's relations with Tor Books and its executive editor Beth Meacham and co-publisher Patrick Nielsen Hayden, with the result that most of Mike's books are coming back into print, starting in 2020, and the series will continue previously unpublished work, including a never-published novel, Aspects.

Butler does a good job of capturing the wonderful, eclectic brilliance of Ford, and also the cautionary tale that he represents as America debates Medicare for All: Ford was plagued by expensive health problems that kept him constantly on the brink of bankruptcy (the only reason he wasn't blind was that a surgeon waived part of his fee for a vital eye-surgery). He was repeatedly bailed out of terminal financial distress by his friends, including Harriet McDougal (one of his editors) and her husband James Rigney (better known by his pen-name, Robert Jordan).

This is nothing less than spectacular news, the happiest possible ending for Mike's friends and family alike. It's simultaneously a testament to Mike's brilliance, his friends' tireless love for him, his family's reasonableness, and the power of investigative journalism to be a force for good in the world.

I can't wait to fall in love with Mike's books all over again.

“He would make art in the most surprising places,” Gaiman told me. “Once he wrote a short play based on the invitation and directions to my annual Guy Fawkes party. There was a typo, and he took that as the grounds for a play.” When Ford visited his editor Teresa Nielsen Hayden at her office at Tor, he would scribble short parody poems of the documents on her desk and leave them for her to find. “Life was not long enough,” she recalled, “for Mike to do all the stuff that he would think of to do.”

“He could have had a more successful career,” Patrick Nielsen Hayden, Teresa’s husband and Tor’s editor in chief, said, “if he had been more disciplined about his writing” and stuck to one genre, or written a series. “But Mike wanted to write what he wanted to write.”

No single example illustrates this better than The Dragon Waiting and its aftermath. As Gaiman put it, “Had he taken The Dragon Waiting and written a sequence of five books based in that world, with that power, he would’ve been George R.R. Martin.” Ford opted instead to write two Star Trek novels (The Final Reflection and How Much for Just the Planet?, both unexpected delights) and The Scholars of Night, a riff on midcentury British espionage thrillers with no fantastical elements and a lost Christopher Marlowe play at its center. Gaiman still bemoans that The Scholars of Night “should’ve been marketed like The Name of the Rose. You needed to go, `We have a great writer who is really fucking brilliant and he has written a book that combines high and low culture.’ ” Instead, Tor, which had been recently acquired by St. Martin’s, published Scholars with a blank back cover. It didn’t exactly do Umberto Eco–level business.

The Resurrection of the Greatest Sci-Fi Writer You’ve Never Read [Isaac Butler/Slate]

(Image: Neil Gaiman and John M. Ford in 2002, by David Dyer-Bennet)


Many Chinese manufacturers are behaving as though they have no future [Cory Doctorow – Boing Boing]

The China Law Blog (previously) reports on the kinds of questions that western businesses operating in China are raising; China's serious economic downturn and rising authoritarianism have turned the site's normally businesslike posts into a glimpse of a kind of cyberpunk stranger-than-fiction dystopia (for example).

A new post on the site describes the consequences of a sharp downturn in the Chinese economy: a new mood among many Chinese businesspeople that they are at the end of the long Chinese boom and that there's no reason not to burn their bridges with non-Chinese firms, because they're not going to be doing business with them for much longer no matter what.

The site's author, Dan Harris, compares the mood in China today with the situation in Russia in the 1990s, when outside businesses would get repeatedly ripped off by their Russian partners, and would go away mystified that these partners would take the short term payouts of burning a foreign partner, at the expense of the much larger upside they could realize from an ongoing arrangement. For these Russian entrepreneur/bandits, Harris says, "They do not believe they will be able to operate freely five years or even one year from now. So though you see them as having irrationally sacrificed massive long term gains for much smaller short term rewards, they see themselves as having quite rationally grabbed what they could while it was still there."

Western firms hiring Chinese manufacturers find themselves taking delivery of junk that is totally unlike the samples they received before placing their main orders; discovering that their trademarks have been registered in China by their manufacturers (which means they can't change suppliers, since the crooked manufacturer now owns the exclusive right to produce their products); finding that their manufacturers have disappeared (or that they never existed in the first place); and claims by Sinosure, the Chinese state-owned insurer that is supposed to protect Chinese manufacturers who've been stiffed by foreign partners, have exploded, as the insurer's foreign offices file legal claims against Western businesses that are having disputes with manufacturers.

Sinosure is China’s state-owned export insurance company that pays Chinese manufacturers that were stiffed by their foreign buyers and then seeks to collect from the foreign buyers that allegedly failed to pay. Before this year the Sinosure cases we handled always involved situations where if the Chinese manufacture did not get Sinosure involved it would almost certainly never get paid. We are now seeing Sinosure cases where the Chinese manufacturer has made what we think are fraudulent policy claims to Sinosure because they are desperate for cash and they don’t care about maintaining their relationship with their foreign buyer.

Lastly, our China lawyers are dealing with an increasing number of situations where the Chinese side of a China joint venture has essentially taken over the joint venture and stops communicating with its foreign joint venture partner. Maybe these joint ventures are no longer even profitable, but our clients are entitled to determine this and if the joint venture should be shut down, our clients are also entitled to a share of the joint venture company’s existing assets. For how to prevent/mitigate such problems, check out this article on China joint ventures. It’s as though the Chinese side in these joint venture partnerships views it as their patriotic duty to kick their foreign partner to the curb.

For some companies, China’s increasing risks now exceed its rewards, but for others this is not at all true. Do you really need a legal entity in China with Chinese employees or might your company be better off with no operations in China beyond a third party distributer or reseller? Our China lawyers have been doing a lot of work in the last six months helping our clients reduce their China footprint and thereby reduce their China risks. No matter what you are doing in or with China, now is a good time to look at how you too can reduce your risks.

How to Conduct Business with Chinese Companies That See a Dark Future [Dan Harris/China Law Blog]

(via Naked Capitalism)

Today in GPF History for Friday, November 15, 2019 [General Protection Fault: The Comic Strip]

Nick's meeting with the Supreme Fu leaves him exhausted...


Friday Larchive – Art Krunch [Looking For Group]

Fridays, we open the Larchives, Lar’s extensive archive of art work oddities, and share a few pieces. Sometimes there will be a theme, or a reason behind the choices. Other times there will be none. Since we talked about the […]

The post Friday Larchive – Art Krunch appeared first on Looking For Group.


Princeton's Center for Information Technology Policy is looking for engineering, social science, law, and policy "visitors" for interdisciplinary one-year positions [Cory Doctorow – Boing Boing]

Princeton's Center for Information Technology Policy is a marvellous interdisciplinary research center, and it is advertising for "visitors" for one-year stints: postdocs, policy fellows and visiting IT professors.

The positions are onsite at Princeton; as Laura Cummings-Abdo writes on Freedom to Tinker: "For all visitors, we are happy to hear from anyone working at the intersection of digital technology and public life, including experts in computer science, sociology, economics, law, political science, public policy, information studies, communication, and other related disciplines."

Hiring [CITP/Princeton]

Why are we still treating economics as if it were an empirical science that makes reliable predictions? [Cory Doctorow – Boing Boing]

Robert Skidelsky is an eccentric British economist: trained at Oxford, author of a definitive three-volume biography of Keynes, a Lord who sat with the Tories as their economics critic during the Blair regime, who now sits as an independent who is aligned with Labour's left wing. Back in September, Yale University Press published Skidelsky's latest book, Money and Government: The Past and Future of Economics, a retelling of the history of economics as a discipline that seeks to uncover how economics' failings created the 2008 crisis and have only made things worse since.

David "Debt" Graeber (previously) has written a fascinating and important review of Money and Government for the New York Review of Books, describing how, for decades, mainstream economists have claimed hold over the empirical truth of where money comes from and how it works, despite the catastrophic failure of their theories to perform as predicted in the real world, and how "Britain’s notoriously independent civil service" created a parallel theory of money -- one that does work -- and use that to operate quietly in parallel to the mainstream monetarist orthodoxy.

After the 2008 crisis, the Queen of England famously demanded to know why no one saw the crash coming. Skidelsky (and Graeber) have an answer: because everyone who was in a position to do something about the coming crash refused to adapt their dogma to reflect the facts, and everyone else, who could see the crash coming, was sidelined because they refused to buy into the dogma.

The UK has often led transitions from one economic theory to the next -- certainly, British economists' and their official partners in Thatcher's government led the way on monetarism -- and today, the currents in British economic thought, documented by Skidelsky in his book, could overturn the neoclassical consensus and lead the way again.

How was it possible to justify such a remarkable string of failures? Here a lot of the blame, according to Skidelsky, can be laid at the feet of the Scottish philosopher David Hume. An early advocate of QTM, Hume was also the first to introduce the notion that short-term shocks—such as Locke produced—would create long-term benefits if they had the effect of unleashing the self-regulating powers of the market:

Ever since Hume, economists have distinguished between the short-run and the long-run effects of economic change, including the effects of policy interventions. The distinction has served to protect the theory of equilibrium, by enabling it to be stated in a form which took some account of reality. In economics, the short-run now typically stands for the period during which a market (or an economy of markets) temporarily deviates from its long-term equilibrium position under the impact of some “shock,” like a pendulum temporarily dislodged from a position of rest. This way of thinking suggests that governments should leave it to markets to discover their natural equilibrium positions. Government interventions to “correct” deviations will only add extra layers of delusion to the original one.

There is a logical flaw to any such theory: there’s no possible way to disprove it. The premise that markets will always right themselves in the end can only be tested if one has a commonly agreed definition of when the “end” is; but for economists, that definition turns out to be “however long it takes to reach a point where I can say the economy has returned to equilibrium.” (In the same way, statements like “the barbarians always win in the end” or “truth always prevails” cannot be proved wrong, since in practice they just mean “whenever barbarians win, or truth prevails, I shall declare the story over.”)

At this point, all the pieces were in place: tight-money policies (which benefited creditors and the wealthy) could be justified as “harsh medicine” to clear up price-signals so the market could return to a healthy state of long-run balance. In describing how all this came about, Skidelsky is providing us with a worthy extension of a history Karl Polanyi first began to map out in the 1940s: the story of how supposedly self-regulating national markets were the product of careful social engineering. Part of that involved creating government policies self-consciously designed to inspire resentment of “big government.”

Against Economics [David Graeber/New York Review of Books]

(via Naked Capitalism)

(Image: Images George Rex , CC BY-SA)


Free USA shipping over $35 starts now [Diesel Sweeties webcomic by rstevens]

This might be my last holiday season, so let's get started early.

(Don't worry, I'm not dying. Not any sooner than anyone else. But this is my 20th year doing this and the world is weird. Take advantage of me while you can.)

Let's get things started right: I've turned on free shipping over $35 in the USA on anything you want.

free shipping button

I've also set up free international shipping on pins- 4 or more ship free, but you can only get pins. Please email me if it doesn't work for you.

Here are some fun things I've reloaded recently:

May the Fourth Pin Packs
I'm down to 6 Chewie pins, so they're in 6 final packs

Black skull pins!

F☋ck It. sweatpants
I currently have all sizes from S-2XL


How to Get Signed and Personalized Books From Me For the Holidays, 2019 [Whatever]

It’s that time of the year again, and once again I am teaming up with Jay & Mary’s Book Center, my local independent bookseller, to offer signed and personalized books for gift-giving. It’s a great way to get a unique gift for someone you love (even yourself!) while at the same time supporting a fabulous local business that does a fantastic job in its community.

So: How do you get signed and personalized books from me this year? It’s simple:

1. Call Jay & Mary’s at their 800 number (800 842 1604) and let them know you’d like to order signed copies of my books. Please call rather than send e-mail; they find it easier to keep track of things that way.

2. Tell them which books you would like (For example, The Consuming Fire), and what, if any, names you would like the book signed to. If there’s something specific you’d like written in the books let them know but for their sake and mine, please keep it short. Also, if you’re ordering the book as a gift, make sure you’re clear about whose name the book is being signed to. If this is unclear, I will avoid using a specific name.

3. Order any other books you might think you’d like, written by other people, because hey, you’ve already called a bookstore for books, and helping local independent bookstores is a good thing. I won’t sign these, unless for some perverse reason you want me to, in which case, sure, why not.

4. Give them your mailing address and billing information, etc.

5. And that’s it! Shortly thereafter I will go to the store and sign your books for you.

If you want the books shipped for Christmas, the deadline for that is December 10. (That’s a Tuesday this year.) That way we can make sure everything ships to you on time. After December 10, all Scalzi stock will still be signed and available, but I will likely not be able to personalize, and we can’t 100% guarantee Christmastime delivery.

Ordering early is encouraged — it makes sure we will absolutely be able to order your book and have it to you on time.

Also, this is open to US residents only. Sorry, rest of the world. It’s a cost of shipping thing.

What books are available?

CURRENT HARDCOVER: A Very Scalzi Christmas is coming out at the end of the month via Subterranean Press, and it’s available. Note that this is a signed, limited edition (only 1,500 physical copies are being made), so it will be more expensive than most of my hardcover books, but it’s gorgeously made and the contents are pretty good too, so it’s worth it. 2018’s hardcovers Head On and The Consuming Fire should also be available if you ask for them specifically. The mini-hardcover of Old Man’s War is also available and is a great format for that book.

CURRENT TRADE PAPERBACK: Tor re-released three of my novels in trade paperback format this year: The Android’s Dream, Agent to the Stars and Fuzzy Nation. Otherwise, Redshirts (the 2013 Hugo Award winner!), Twenty-First Century Science Fiction (which features a story of mine), Metatropolis (which I edited and contribute a novella to) are available in trade paperback format. There may be hardcovers of these still around if you ask. But each are definitely in trade paperback. There are also probably still trade paperback editions of Old Man’s War that can be ordered if you prefer that format. Also available: Robots Vs. Fairies, the anthology that features the story of mine that was adapted for the “Three Robots” episode of the Netflix animated series Love, Death and Robots.

CURRENT MASS MARKET PAPERBACK: Head On and The Consuming Fire are available in mass market paperback this year, joining  The Collapsing Empire, Unlocked: An Oral History of the Haden Syndrome (this is a novella), The End of All ThingsLock InThe Human Division, Old Man’s War, The Ghost Brigades, The Last Colony, Zoe’s Tale, The New Space Opera 2. Fuzzy Nation, Agent to the Stars and The Android’s Dream have recently been moved into trade paperback, but mass market editions are probably still available if that’s your preference. You can also purchase the Old Man’s War boxed set (which features the first three books in the series), BUT if you want that signed you’ll have to agree to let me take the shrinkwrap off. In return I’ll sign each of the books in the box.

CURRENT NON-FICTION: Your Hate Mail Will Be Graded (essay collection, Hugo winner), The Mallet of Loving Correction (also an essay collection, this will need to be special ordered as it is a signed limited), Virtue Signaling (a third essay collection, will also need special ordering) and Don’t Live For Your Obituary (a collection of essays about writing, will also need to be special ordered).

AUDIOBOOKS: The Consuming Fire, The Dispatcher, The End of All Things, Lock In, Head On, The Human Division, Redshirts, Fuzzy Nation, The God Engines, Metatropolis and Agent to the Stars are all available on CD and/or MP3 CD, and Jay & Mary’s should be able to special order them for you. Check with them about other titles, which may or may not be available on CD.

Two things regarding audiobooks: First, if you want these, you should probably call to order these ASAP. Second, and this is important, because the audiobooks come shrinkwrapped, I will have to remove the shrinkwrap in order to sign the cover. You ordering a signed audiobook means you’re okay with me doing that and with Jay & Mary’s shipping it to you out of its shrinkwrap.

If you have any other questions, drop them in the comment thread and I’ll try to answer them!


An interview with Andy Greenberg about his book Sandworm, on the Russian state hackers who attack power grids [Cory Doctorow – Boing Boing]

Wired security reporter Andy Greenberg's latest book is Sandworm (previously), a true-life technothriller that tells the stories of the cybersecurity experts who analyzed and attributed as series of ghastly cyberwar attacks that brought down parts of the Ukrainian power grid, and then escaped the attackers' control and spread all over the world.

In an interview with Rick Kleffel's Agony Column podcast (MP3) Greenberg tells the tale of how he came to write this extraordinary book, and what it means in the context of Ukraine and the current US political situation.

(Thanks, Rick!)


Company That Acquired ‘Copyright Troll’ Warns ISPs & VPN Providers [TorrentFreak]

While movie and music companies have regularly filed copyright lawsuits against alleged BitTorrent pirates over the past decade and beyond, the companies operating the machinery behind the scenes are less well known.

One exception was to be found in GuardaLey, an entity that provided tracking data and business structure for numerous lawsuits, notably the massive action targeting alleged pirates of the movies The Hurt Locker and The Expendables.

While these lawsuits and others like them attracted plenty of headlines, GuardaLey itself rarely experienced much scrutiny, at least not to the extent where its complex business dealings were made available to the public.

Earlier this year the waters appeared to be muddied again when 100% of its alleged US-operations were ‘acquired’ by American Films Inc. which promised to target peer-to-peer networks in order to target “repeat infringers.”

Since then, nothing has been heard of American Films Inc, which at the time of the GuardaLey acquisition was described as a “shell company.” Now, however, the company appears to have even grander plans after another acquisition, this time of “strategic data company” Maker Data Services LLC.

“This acquisition is important because it adds to the evidence of BitTorrent related copyright infringement that American Films can provide to its clients,” says John Carty, American Films’ CEO.

“This type of forensic evidence is only available from a few sources, most of which only supply the largest industry associations.”

However, it’s the next set of claims that are likely to raise the most eyebrows, including a veiled threat to not only take powerful Internet service providers to court, but also VPN companies.

“American Films has positioned itself as the go-to data provider for independent filmmakers that want to take action against the direct infringers, Internet Service Providers, VPN Providers, and others that allow, encourage, and profit from BitTorrent copyright infringement,” a company statement reads.

According to various sources, at the time of writing American Films stock is currently changing hands at around $0.04, has one employee, but decides not to supply any financial information by way of accounts.

More information is available on Maker Data Services LLC if one visits its website, but it’s not a particularly confidence-inspiring experience, even for a one-year-old company.

“Our company has created a tool that will search the internet. Our tool is able to find any relevant data that could affect the operations of our clients, that is, the businesses we serve,” the Maker Data site reads.

“We deal mostly with real estate data and people data to ensure that Real Estate businesses have all the vital information to make sound decisions and drive their businesses forward.

“Our real estate data and analytics services will always give you the actual value of a home before buying for better decision making.”

While there might potentially be some synergies between the above and “forensic” anti-piracy activity, the claim elsewhere on the site that the company has “state-the-art software” does not extend to the bug-ridden WordPress installation powering the site.

Every page displays database errors and much of the site consists of ‘articles’ carrying little more than placeholder posts, graphics and text, presumably put there by the creators of the website.

Google “” for many more..

Along with the acquisition of Maker Data Services comes the appointment of a new CTO for American Films, Craig Campbell, formerly of Fidelity Investments.

His “main focus” will be “managing the build-out of BitTorrent products for copyright enforcement utilizing the combined data resources now available at American Films.”

How the business model of American Films will develop is for the future to reveal but the acquisitions announced by the company thus far only raise more questions, not provide more answers. To be brutal, it’s only the inclusion of GuardaLey’s reputation as a ‘copyright troll’ within the equation that provokes curiosity.

Litigating successful lawsuits against powerful ISPs or even VPN providers seems not only an incredibly lofty goal, but also an extremely costly and risky proposition. Part of the solution to the latter pair of roadblocks, perhaps, lies in the company’s stated aim.

“American Films seeks to create alternative investment participation vehicles that provide necessary funding to appropriate projects while offering reasonable return on investment and mitigation of business risks traditionally encountered in the film industry,” the company states.

A for-hire firewall for ‘copyright trolling’ or the next Rightscorp? Only time will tell but ISPs and VPN providers probably aren’t worried too much just yet.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.


TPM-Fail Attacks Against Cryptographic Coprocessors [Schneier on Security]

Really interesting research: TPM-FAIL: TPM meets Timing and Lattice Attacks, by Daniel Moghimi, Berk Sunar, Thomas Eisenbarth, and Nadia Heninger.

Abstract: Trusted Platform Module (TPM) serves as a hardware-based root of trust that protects cryptographic keys from privileged system and physical adversaries. In this work, we per-form a black-box timing analysis of TPM 2.0 devices deployed on commodity computers. Our analysis reveals that some of these devices feature secret-dependent execution times during signature generation based on elliptic curves. In particular, we discovered timing leakage on an Intel firmware-based TPM as well as a hardware TPM. We show how this information allows an attacker to apply lattice techniques to recover 256-bit private keys for ECDSA and ECSchnorr signatures. On Intel fTPM, our key recovery succeeds after about1,300 observations and in less than two minutes. Similarly, we extract the private ECDSA key from a hardware TPM manufactured by STMicroelectronics, which is certified at CommonCriteria (CC) EAL 4+, after fewer than 40,000 observations. We further highlight the impact of these vulnerabilities by demonstrating a remote attack against a StrongSwan IPsecVPN that uses a TPM to generate the digital signatures for authentication. In this attack, the remote client recovers the server's private authentication key by timing only 45,000 authentication handshakes via a network connection.

The vulnerabilities we have uncovered emphasize the difficulty of correctly implementing known constant-time techniques, and show the importance of evolutionary testing and transparent evaluation of cryptographic implementations.Even certified devices that claim resistance against attacks require additional scrutiny by the community and industry, as we learn more about these attacks.

These are real attacks, and take between 4-20 minutes to extract the key. Intel has a firmware update.

Attack website. News articles. Boing Boing post. Slashdot thread.


Security updates for Friday []

Security updates have been issued by CentOS (kernel), Debian (ghostscript, mesa, and postgresql-common), Fedora (chromium, php-robrichards-xmlseclibs, php-robrichards-xmlseclibs3, samba, scap-security-guide, and wpa_supplicant), Mageia (cpio, fribidi, libapreq2, python-numpy, webkit2, and zeromq), openSUSE (ImageMagick, kernel, libtomcrypt, qemu, ucode-intel, and xen), Oracle (kernel), Red Hat (ghostscript, kernel, and kernel-rt), Scientific Linux (ghostscript and kernel), SUSE (bash, enigmail, ghostscript, ImageMagick, kernel, libjpeg-turbo, openconnect, and squid), and Ubuntu (ghostscript, imagemagick, and postgresql-common).


Raphaël Hertzog: Freexian’s report about Debian Long Term Support, October 2019 [Planet Debian]

A Debian LTS logo

Like each month, here comes a report about
the work of paid contributors
to Debian LTS.

Individual reports

In October, 214.50 work hours have been dispatched among 15 paid contributors. Their reports are available:

  • Abhijith PA did 8.0h (out of 14h assigned) and gave the remaining 6h back to the pool.
  • Adrian Bunk didn’t get any hours assigned as he had been carrying 26h from September, of which he gave 8h back, so thus carrying over 18h to November.
  • Ben Hutchings did 22.25h (out of 22.75h assigned), thus carrying over 0.5h to November.
  • Brian May did 10h (out of 10h assigned).
  • Chris Lamb did 18h (out of 18h assigned).
  • Emilio Pozuelo Monfort did 46.25h (out of 21.75h assigned at the beginning of the month and 24.5h assigned at the end of the month).
  • Hugo Lefeuvre did 46.5h (out of 22.75h assigned and 23.75h from September).
  • Jonas Meurer didn’t get any hours assigned and gave back the 14.5h he was carrying from September as he did nothing.
  • Markus Koschany did 22.75h (out of 22.75h assigned).
  • Mike Gabriel did 11.75h (out of 10h assigned and 1.75h from September).
  • Ola Lundqvist did 8.5h (out of 8h assigned and 14h from September), thus carrying over 13.5h to November.
  • Roberto C. Sánchez did 8h (out of 8h assigned).
  • Sylvain Beucler did 22.75h (out of 22.75h assigned).
  • Thorsten Alteholz did 22.75h (out of 22.75h assigned).
  • Utkarsh Gupta did 10.0h (out of 10h assigned).

Evolution of the situation

In October Emilio spent many hours bringing firefox-esr 68 to jessie and stretch, thus expanding the impact from Debian LTS to stable security support. For jessie firefox-esr needed these packages to be backported: llvm-toolchain, gcc-mozilla, cmake-mozilla, nasm-mozilla, nodejs-mozilla, cargo, rustc and rust-cbindgen.
October was also the month were we saw the first paid contributions from Utkarsh Gupta, who was a trainee in September.

Starting in November we also have a new trainee, Dylan Aïssi. Welcome to the team, Dylan!

We currently have 59 LTS sponsors sponsoring 212h per month. Still, as always we are welcoming new LTS sponsors!

The security tracker currently lists 35 packages with a known CVE and the dla-needed.txt file has 35 packages needing an update.

Thanks to our sponsors

New sponsors are in bold.

No comment | Liked this article? Click here. | My blog is Flattr-enabled.

My summer vacation: The London Eye [The Old New Thing]

One of the popular tourist attractions in London is the London Eye. When I went to the Web site to pre-order tickets, there was a field for telephone number.

It had an up/down spinner.

Telephone numbers in the United States are ten digits long, and since this was an international order, I also needed the +1 prefix.¹ But I doubt they really expected me to hit the up-arrow ten million times.²

Our group included some people who were interested in the combination London Eye + River Cruise ticket, but others who are not fans of the whole “going high up in their air in a glass room” thing, but who were nevertheless interested in the River Cruise portion. What’s the way to purchase and schedule the tickets?

When you purchase the combination tickets online, the time you pick is for the River Cruise portion. So pick a time that works for everyone, and purchase the standalone River Cruise tickets for the same time slot. After you complete your purchase, you get an email message with instructions on how to book the London Eye portion of the trip.

If you decide to do both events on the same day, then this is the recommendation I received from the London Eye people:

Order of events Time to allow in between
London Eye, then River Cruise 45 minutes
River Cruise, then London Eye 60 minutes

(One turn on the London Eye takes 30 minutes. The River Cruise lasts 40 minutes.)

When you arrive at the London Eye, there’s a good chance you will be dismayed by the length of the queue. Just get into the queue before your scheduled time, and you’ll be okay. Somebody comes around every few minutes to confirm that you were in the queue in time.

Note, however, that if you choose to follow the Eye with a Cruise, a longer-than-expected queue will eat into your buffer time.

¹ Since this was marked as a numeric field, there is no way to enter the plus sign. Or an “x” for extension.

² If you start by hitting the down-arrow, you can set a negative telephone number! That gets me a minus sign, but I need a plus sign for the international dialing prefix.


The post My summer vacation: The London Eye appeared first on The Old New Thing.

Why does my single-threaded program have multiple threads? [The Old New Thing]

You’ve written a simple single-threaded program, but when you look in Task Manager, it says that the program has two or even more threads. What’s going on?

Even though your program doesn’t create any threads, a library used by your program might create threads, and the system itself might create threads.

For example, if you call the SHFile­Operation function to copy some files, the shell may create additional threads to assist with the file copy operation. For example, the progress UI could be shown on the UI thread, with a separate thread used to perform the disk access.

Even after the multithreaded operation is complete, you may see threads lingering in the process because the multithreaded operation may have used the thread pool. Every process has a default thread pool which is created upon demand, and is destroyed at process termination.

If you are a console application, then the system creates an additional thread in your process in order to handle and deliver console control notifications.

In more recent versions of Windows 10 (I forget exactly when it started), the loader takes advantage of the thread pool to speed up loading DLLs into memory. This means that in practice, by the time the first line of code in your application starts to execute, the process default thread pool has already been created in order to load the DLLs your application uses.


The post Why does my single-threaded program have multiple threads? appeared first on The Old New Thing.


Link [Scripting News]

I'm glad that Carmelo Anthony is getting another chance. He was the face of the Knicks for many years. I was surprised to find that even though his attitude about himself and the team was the source of a lot of the Knicks' problems, after he was gone, I felt affection for him. I look forward to seeing him play for Portland and I hope the team and the fans give him a chance to get settled in. He's more than a player, he's part of the soul of the NBA. There's no doubt when he returns to the Garden with his new team, there will be a huge outpouring of affection for him.

Link [Scripting News]

BTW, amazingly, the Knicks beat Kristaps and his new team again last night, this time in New York. Hard to believe.

Link [Scripting News]

For the first time, I am able to communicate with my doctor via email. What an innovation. Why didn't we start doing this a long time ago? Oh well better late than never.

Russia, Russia über alles [Scripting News]

If you watched Maddow last night, it would be hard to call the first day of testimony in the impeachment hearings a snoozefest. Here's the deal. Everything the president does not only benefits him personally but it also benefits Russia. All of it.

So more than an impeachment, we are hearing a case study about how the Republican Party and the American president are servants of a foreign adversary. A truth most of us find hard to accept, I guess. But there's a lot more of this than has come to light. This is just the first that has been so microscopically exposed. Expect that when we peer into the Turkish invasion of Kurdistan, we will find another clusterfuck of your favorite country and mine.

We need more than impeach and remove.

We need an exorcism.


Cook: Security things in Linux v5.3 []

Kees Cook catches up with the security improvements in the 5.3 kernel. "In recent exploits, one of the steps for making the attacker’s life easier is to disable CPU protections like Supervisor Mode Access (and Execute) Prevention (SMAP and SMEP) by finding a way to write to CPU control registers to disable these features. For example, CR4 controls SMAP and SMEP, where disabling those would let an attacker access and execute userspace memory from kernel code again, opening up the attack to much greater flexibility. CR0 controls Write Protect (WP), which when disabled would allow an attacker to write to read-only memory like the kernel code itself. Attacks have been using the kernel’s CR4 and CR0 writing functions to make these changes (since it’s easier to gain that level of execute control), but now the kernel will attempt to 'pin' sensitive bits in CR4 and CR0 to avoid them getting disabled. This forces attacks to do more work to enact such register changes going forward."


Student poverty in France [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

A student in France set himself on fire to protest against poverty, and this led to wider protests about poverty.

Assyrian empire fall [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

The Assyrian empire seems to have fallen after a decades-long regional drought.

That drought wasn't the result of humans' greenhouse gas emissions. But that is what causes today's increasing droughts.

Flood in Venice [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Venice had another flood, the highest since the 1960s. Predictably, there was a lot of damage — but didn't people expect this? They ought to expect it to get worse.

Unless we curb and then undo global heating, the occasional flooding of Venice will become more frequent and higher. Protective barriers will work only temporarily until the sea surmounts them. Eventually only dams will do the job.

Damming off the lagoon will change its water and life; I wonder if it would be adequate to let water flow into the lagoon some of the time, while pumping water out at other times.

Russian funding of Tory campaigns [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Tory election campaigns have been funded for years by Russians, which is why the Tories are blocking an investigation.

Installing a Heat Pump [Judith Proctor's Journal]

 Everything is a bit manic right now...

We're installing a heat pump.

Our boiler was on its last legs, so it was either replace it with another boiler, thus locking us into using gas for another 15-20 years, or replacing it with something less dependent on fossil fuels.  Hence the heat pump.

As our downstair carpets all needed replacing (the only one that don't have holes covered with duct tape is 39 years old and  a major asthma trigger because of all the allergens trapped in its deep pile) we're going for a complete change of flooring as well and have the heat pump feed an underfloor heating system instead of radiators.  (Upstairs will still be radiators)

We'd originally decided to go for an engineered wood floor, but vinyl tiles are half the price and conduct heat better.

The first stage of the process has been completed.  The chimney in our lounge has been bricked up, the hearth removed and the wall plastered.  We chose not to remove the chimney breast entirely, that would have cost a lot more.  The lounge looks quite a bit larger just removing the fireplace.

My asthma is not very happy about all the extra dust in the air, but I'll survive. In the long run, this whole process will benefit the asthma.

Next week, two large items of furniture go to auction.  Neither of them are terribly practical for what we need to store in them, and sentimental value is all very well, but you can't keep things forever.  Several other inherited items are going as well.  Space is finite and it will help cover the costs of new shelving for our board game collection.

At the end of next week, all the downstairs furniture moves upstairs....  Old carpet goes to the tip.  I stay out of the way as the dust raised will be horrendous....

This will be a major undertaking, roping in other family members to help move everything.  For a week or two, we'll be living in a rather compact space in one of the bedrooms as every single downstairs room will have the floor being removed/replaced.

Friday coming, the boiler and the downstairs radiators all get removed.  (Can't remember when the upstairs radiators go - they have to be replaced by larger ones, as heat pumps deliver heat at a lower temperature they need a larger surface area on the radiators)

We survive for several days with a portable electric radiator and thank heaven we have a well insulated house...

Monday, the underfloor heating people start work, they and the heat pump people will be working around each other (they're liaising very well) for several days.

I've still got to finalise dates for the flooring and painting people. We've only just finalised the heating dates, but the flooring people are getting back to me today or tomorrow, and the painters have already said they're flexible.

A good chunk of the heat pump and underfloor system should be covered by the Government's Renewable Heat Incentive, though we're not yet sure how much.  They pay you back over a five or six year period, which to my mind is very wrong, as only people able to pay upfront (which we can owing to a legacy) are able to take advantage of the scheme.

What we need are government schemes to insulate the homes of people on low incomes and to directly support environmentally friendly heating systems.  Heating homes is a large part of the country's carbon footprint and one that has to be tackled as quickly as possible.  Every replacement gas boiler is a problem for the future.

comment count unavailable comments

Installing a Heat Pump [Tales From the Riverbank]

 Everything is a bit manic right now...

We're installing a heat pump.

Our boiler was on its last legs, so it was either replace it with another boiler, thus locking us into using gas for another 15-20 years, or replacing it with something less dependent on fossil fuels.  Hence the heat pump.

As our downstair carpets all needed replacing (the only one that don't have holes covered with duct tape is 39 years old and  a major asthma trigger because of all the allergens trapped in its deep pile) we're going for a complete change of flooring as well and have the heat pump feed an underfloor heating system instead of radiators.  (Upstairs will still be radiators)

We'd originally decided to go for an engineered wood floor, but vinyl tiles are half the price and conduct heat better.

The first stage of the process has been completed.  The chimney in our lounge has been bricked up, the hearth removed and the wall plastered.  We chose not to remove the chimney breast entirely, that would have cost a lot more.  The lounge looks quite a bit larger just removing the fireplace.

My asthma is not very happy about all the extra dust in the air, but I'll survive. In the long run, this whole process will benefit the asthma.

Next week, two large items of furniture go to auction.  Neither of them are terribly practical for what we need to store in them, and sentimental value is all very well, but you can't keep things forever.  Several other inherited items are going as well.  Space is finite and it will help cover the costs of new shelving for our board game collection.

At the end of next week, all the downstairs furniture moves upstairs....  Old carpet goes to the tip.  I stay out of the way as the dust raised will be horrendous....

This will be a major undertaking, roping in other family members to help move everything.  For a week or two, we'll be living in a rather compact space in one of the bedrooms as every single downstairs room will have the floor being removed/replaced.

Friday coming, the boiler and the downstairs radiators all get removed.  (Can't remember when the upstairs radiators go - they have to be replaced by larger ones, as heat pumps deliver heat at a lower temperature they need a larger surface area on the radiators)

We survive for several days with a portable electric radiator and thank heaven we have a well insulated house...

Monday, the underfloor heating people start work, they and the heat pump people will be working around each other (they're liaising very well) for several days.

I've still got to finalise dates for the flooring and painting people. We've only just finalised the heating dates, but the flooring people are getting back to me today or tomorrow, and the painters have already said they're flexible.

A good chunk of the heat pump and underfloor system should be covered by the Government's Renewable Heat Incentive, though we're not yet sure how much.  They pay you back over a five or six year period, which to my mind is very wrong, as only people able to pay upfront (which we can owing to a legacy) are able to take advantage of the scheme.

What we need are government schemes to insulate the homes of people on low incomes and to directly support environmentally friendly heating systems.  Heating homes is a large part of the country's carbon footprint and one that has to be tackled as quickly as possible.  Every replacement gas boiler is a problem for the future.

This entry was originally posted on Dreamwidth where it has comment count unavailable comments.


Compared to what? [Seth's Blog]

Are today’s 50 richest billionaires happier than the 50 richest people who lived twenty years ago?

It’s unlikely.

And yet they control many times as much wealth.

If you take a date to the fanciest, most exclusive restaurant in Portland, you may find the satisfaction that comes from having done something exclusive. On the other hand, if you were at that very same restaurant in Los Angeles, it might feel like a disappointing compromise. Same food, different status.

A 440-foot yacht isn’t better than a 200-foot yacht, unless we’re measuring ‘better’ in terms of status. And of course, once someone has a 445-foot yacht, then the 440-foot model is a lot less attractive, isn’t it?

And that’s why status-seekers need limits.

The Citation X can fly at 711 miles an hour. And no matter how much you spend, you can’t buy a jet that will go 800 miles an hour. Because the laws of physics (combined with the laws on sonic booms) make it impossible with our current technology. As a result, the owner of a Citation X can find the satisfaction that he has reached the limit.

There are two dangers of measuring happiness along just one axis. The first is that you will be easily disappointed, because the unbalanced approach to maximizing a single variable increases the chance that you will end up behind.

And the second is that you might actually succeed in hitting a limit. And then where will you find your happiness?

We (everyone around us) come out ahead when we create positive externalities for people who are competing to win. When folks are seeking to compete on who can build the most libraries, endow the most scholarships, and yes, pay the most taxes, it leads to a positive cycle of better. And we challenge our sports heroes to beat each other senseless as a form of entertainment. But only within the rules.

Life without limits rarely leads to satisfaction. And billionaires who pay taxes aren’t less driven or less happy than billionaires who don’t.

For them, for all single-axis competitors, it’s the game, the hierarchy, the rankings that matter. In fact, that’s true for just about everyone who cares about status. Boundaries are what allow games of status to exist.


Phone call [Judith Proctor's Journal]

 I just phoned someone to discuss a dance event.

I thought you might share my enjoyment of her reply "Please can you phone back in ten minutes, I'm just washing a rabbit."

comment count unavailable comments


Phone call [Tales From the Riverbank]

 I just phoned someone to discuss a dance event.

I thought you might share my enjoyment of her reply "Please can you phone back in ten minutes, I'm just washing a rabbit."

This entry was originally posted on Dreamwidth where it has comment count unavailable comments.


Error'd: Every System's Preferences [The Daily WTF]

Rob W. wrote, "Looks more like this process is responsible for customizing the entire solar system's preferences."   "I know it's confusing to cross the international date...


Court Punishes Copyright ‘Troll’ Lawyer for Repeatedly Lying to The Court [TorrentFreak]

Over the past several years, independent photographers have filed more than a thousand lawsuits against companies that allegedly use their work without permission.

As many targets are mainstream media outlets, these can be seen as David vs. Goliath battles. However, the nature of these cases is described as classic copyright-trolling by many.

The driving force behind this copyright crusade is New York lawyer Richard Liebowitz, a former photographer, who explained his motives to TorrentFreak when he just got his firm started more than three years ago.

“Companies are using other people’s hard work and profiting off of it. It is important for photographers and the creative community to unite and stand up for their rights and protect their work,” Liebowitz said.

In the years that followed Liebowitz filed hundreds of new cases a year, trying to obtain settlements. While many of the photographers have a legitimate claim, the lawyer’s antics were increasingly criticized both in and outside of court.

In recent weeks, things only got worse.

In a case that was filed on behalf of photographer Jason Berger, targeting Imagina Consulting, Liebowitz failed to show up at a discovery hearing last April, without informing the court.

The lawyer later explained that this was due to a death in his family. However, since there were other issues that put the lawyer’s credibility in doubt, Judge Cathy Siebel decided to request evidence or documentation regarding who died, when, and how he was notified.

In the following months, Liebowitz explained that his grandfather had passed away on April 12, but he didn’t provide any documentation to back this up. Even after the court imposed sanctions of $100 for each business day he didn’t comply, nothing came in.

Instead of providing proof, the lawyer appeared to keep stalling, while stating that a death certificate is a personal matter.

This led some people to wonder whether Liebowitz’ grandfather had indeed passed away. Frustrated with the refusal to comply with her demands, Judge Siebel raised the sanctions to $500 per day earlier this month, criticising the lawyer for his behavior.

The order (pdf), picked up by Law360, instructed the New York lawyer to show up in court this week, to explain “why he should not be incarcerated” until he provides documented proof.

“Failure to appear as directed will subject Mr. Liebowitz to arrest by the United States Marshals Service without further notice,” Judge Siebel wrote.

It turns out that an arrest wasn’t needed as Liebowitz did show up at the hearing this week. Realizing that there may be trouble ahead, he entered the courtroom with two criminal defense lawyers at his side, for what would become a turbulent hearing.

After six months, the lawyer finally presented the death certificate the court had requested. This proved that he didn’t lie about the death of his grandfather, but he hadn’t been truthful either as this occurred three days earlier than Liebowitz said, on April 9.

Judge Siebel wasn’t happy about this, to say the least. According to The Smoking Gun, which covered the case in detail, she said that Liebowitz “chose to repeat that lie six, eight, ten times” as part of a “long-term campaign of deception.”

“I question Mr. Liebowitz’s fitness to practice,” Seibel added at one point during the hearing.

Liebowitz’s lawyer, Richard Greenberg, who has known the lawyer and his family for years, explained that his client’s misrepresentations were not “intentional” and that he “was in a daze” following the death of his grandfather.

However, Judge Seibel didn’t fall for this and countered that it would be “completely implausible” that this “haze” would have continued for months. According to her, Liebowitz intentionally lied to the court, noting that it was clearly not an honest mistake.

Greenberg also tried to get the sanctions lowered, which he said had risen to $3,700 over the past weeks. According to a letter sent to the court earlier this week, the attorney noted that Liebowitz had already paid a high price for his wrongdoing, including bad publicity.

“Richard has suffered horrible publicity as a result of being held in contempt and threatened with incarceration by this Court. And of course Richard, a young and inexperienced lawyer, is scared of the damage to his professional career as a result of his conduct and these proceedings,” Greenberg wrote.

“At the risk of appearing to minimize the seriousness of this matter, which counsel would not dare to do, counsel urges this Court to find that Richard has suffered or been penalized enough for his lapse or misconduct,” the letter (pdf) adds.

Judge Seibel didn’t seem convinced by these arguments though, and Liebowitz had to cough up for sanctions. According to Leonard French’s coverage, he paid $3,700 in court. That was $100 short according to the Judge, but she accepted it nonetheless.

The earlier contempt rulings also bring more bad news for the lawyer. He now has to disclose these to other courts as well as prospective clients, which likely doesn’t help his business.

In addition, Judge Seibel has referred the matter to the Grievance Committee, which will decide if further sanctions are appropriate, which could lead to trouble at the New York bar.

Needless to say, this is yet more bad news for the attorney. He can continue to practice law, at least for now, but everyone seems to agree that the attorney needs help and not just on the legal front.

Liebowitz’s own lawyer and family friend, Greenberg, recommended him to enroll in a CLE course to learn how to manage a small law firm. In addition, he was advised to seek psychotherapy to deal with several other issues.

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.


Urgent: Support impeaching the bullshitter [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

US citizens: phone your congresscritter to support impeaching the bullshitter.

It wouldn't hurt to ask for the investigation to cover other crimes as well as the Ukraine shakedown.

The Capitol Switchboard numbers are 202-224-3121, 888-818-6641 and 888-355-3588.

Deaths caused by US wars since 2000 [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

US wars since 2000 are estimated to have caused three million deaths.

There is no way to get anything more accurate than an estimate. For Iraq, the organization Iraq Body Count counted only specific casualties which could be verified — and that was clearly a small fraction.

Thugs illegally keep juveniles' fingerprints [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

The New York City thug department keeps fingerprints of juvenile delinquents, in direct contempt of the state law prohibiting this.

I gather that they are all teenagers rather than "children", but that is no excuse. The law applies to teenagers, too.

Journalist Ahmet Altan arrested again [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Turkish journalist Ahmet Altan has been arrested again, for bogus political reasons.

Erdoğan has thousands of people jailed or fired from their jobs using the failed coup as an excuse.


Comic: Carbonated [Penny Arcade]

New Comic: Carbonated


Feeds | Maintainers III: Infrastructure and climate [Planet GridPP]

Maintainers III: Infrastructure and climate 15 November 2019 - 9:50am

By Dr Laura James, Software Sustainability Institute Fellow How do you know when something is infrastructure? If there's someone on call at 3am to fix it when it breaks, it's infrastructure.

Feeds | Maintainers III: labour [Planet GridPP]

Maintainers III: labour 15 November 2019 - 9:45am

By Dr Laura James, Software Sustainability Institute Fellow Labour was a theme cutting across sessions at Maintainers III.


Keith Packard: picolibc-1.1 [Planet Debian]

Picolibc Version 1.1

Picolibc development is settling down at last. With the addition of a simple 'hello world' demo app, it seems like a good time to stamp the current code as 'version 1.1'.

Changes since Version 1.0

  • Semihosting helper library. Semihosting lets an application running under a debugger or emulator communicate through the debugger or emulator with the environment hosting those. It's great for platform bringup before you've got clocking and a serial driver. I'm hoping it will also make running tests under qemu possible. The code works on ARM and RISC-V systems and offers console I/O and exit() support (under qemu).

  • Hello World example. This is a stand-alone bit of code with a Makefile that demonstrates how to build a complete application for both RISC-V and ARM embedded systems using picolibc after it has been installed. The executables run under QEMU using a provided script. Here's all the source code you need; the rest of the code (including semihosting support) is provided by picolibc:

    #include <stdio.h> #include <stdlib.h>

    int main(void) { printf("hello, world\n"); exit(0); }

  • POSIX file I/O support. For systems which have open/close/read/write, picolibc's tinystdio can now provide stdio functions that use them, including fopen and fdopen.

  • Updated code from newlib. I've merged current upstream newlib into the tree. There were a few useful changes there, including libm stubs for fenv on hosts that don't provide their own.

Where To Get Bits

You can find picolibc on my personal server's git repository:

There's also a copy on github:

If you like tarballs, I also create those:

I've create tags for 1.1 (upstream) and 1.1-1 (debian packaging included) and pushed those to the git repositories.

Filing Issues, Making Contributions

There's a mailing list at

Or you can file issues using the github tracker.

Girl Genius for Friday, November 15, 2019 [Girl Genius]

The Girl Genius comic for Friday, November 15, 2019 has been posted.


Human rights responsibilities evaded [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Can the government evade its human rights responsibilities in regard to a certain service by outsourcing it? A court in Scotland ruled yes.

Faster Amazon shipping speeds [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

(satire) Amazon officials announced Wednesday that they’ll be encouraging faster shipping speeds by strapping a cinder block to the accelerator of their drivers’ delivery trucks.

Increasing inequality in the UK [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Increasing inequality in the UK has shrunk the tax base. The top 1% now pay 1/3 of the income tax.

It is good to tax the rich, but getting a lot of income from a few gives them power they should not have.

The situation calls for spreading the income more widely.

Improper advantage at the ballot box [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

"When a rotten administration repeatedly seeks to gain an improper advantage at the ballot box, it no longer makes sense to regard the ballot box as the only means of removing the president from office."

Call-out culture [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

"I’m a Black Feminist. I Think Call-Out Culture Is Toxic."

Rich deposit of natural resources [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

(satire) Cursing their luck after scientists confirmed their nation’s worst fears had been realized, officials in Paraguay were reportedly panicking Wednesday after discovering a rich deposit of natural resources.

EPA wants less science and fewer rules [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

"The EPA wants to ban [regulatory consideration of] research that doesn’t violate the privacy of its subjects. That means less science—and fewer rules for polluters."

Israeli forces violated the rights of Palestinian journalists [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Palestinians report that Israeli forces violated the rights of Palestinian journalists 600 times this year. That includes 80 instances of shooting journalists.

Sewage on Palestinians land [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Israeli soldiers blocked Palestinians from harvesting their olives. That was after they discovered that someone had dumped sewage and pig parts on their land — most likely the Israelis from the nearby colony.

A war to keep Netanyahu on his throne [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Raluca Ganea: A war to keep Netanyahu on his throne.
(Translated and published by Gush Shalom.)

Bolivia's lithium reserves [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Morales wanted to develop Bolivia's lithium reserves in a way that would benefit Bolivians, not mainly multinational corporations. Western companies refused, and recently Chinese companies accepted.

Increased sales of SUVs [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

The IEA warns that increased sales of SUVs could wipe out the greenhouse gas reductions achieved by electric cars.

That the IEA pays attention to global heating is a change for the better.


Border thugs need suspicion to search [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

The EFF won a court judgment that US border thugs need a specific suspicion to authorize searching travelers' computers (including phones).

Lawful ways to subvert US politics [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Foreign governments have lawful ways to subvert US politics, with their money.

General lack of trust [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

Of Americans under 30, over 70% distrust other people in general. Could this be a consequence of their controlling upbringing, which teaches that every stranger is a "danger"?

The lack of trust interferes with the cooperation that makes society function. It can cripple the functioning of society.

Foreign students leaving Hong Kong [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

After thugs attacked some Hong Kong universities, foreign students felt threatened and began leaving.

Nobel Prize conspiracy [Richard Stallman's Political Notes]

A 1990s conspiracy theory was believed by Nobel Prize jurors and that is why they gave the Nobel Prize for Literature to Peter Handke.


Manners and Mores [Diesel Sweeties webcomic by rstevens]

this is a diesel sweeties comic strip

Maybe you can tell from this comic that I have some theories on the evolutionary basis for conference calls.


Uber pretended its drivers were contractors, and now it owes New Jersey $650m in employment tax [Cory Doctorow – Boing Boing]

Not everything is legal in New Jersey: Uber has to pay the state of New Jersey $650m in unemployment and disability tax for the employee drivers that it pretended were contractors. Uber is appealing. It will lose. Uber drivers in Jersey are now entitled to unemployment insurance. (via /.) (Image: Quotecatalog, Ervins Strauhmanis, CC BY, modified)


San Diego's wonderful Mysterious Galaxy Books has lost its lease, needs a buyer ASAP to stay afloat [Cory Doctorow – Boing Boing]

Mysterious Galaxy is a wonderful, longstanding science fiction bookstore, host to readings for the Clarion Workshop, designated bookseller for Comic-Con signings, and much more.

And while the 27-year-old bookstore is profitable, with 5-10% year-on-year sales growth and mounting profits, it is still operating on thin enough margins that it is vulnerable to shocks, and now the store has lost its lease, a shock that has endangered the store's future.

In an email to customers and stakeholders, owner Terry Gilman has offered the store for sale on a "turnkey" basis, seeking offers before November 20th. The store has 60 days to vacate its location and unless a new owner and location have been found by then, Southern California will lose one of its most storied, best independent bookstores, and science fiction and fantasy will lose one of its greatest, longest-standing genre bookstores.

The staff of Mysterious Galaxy just received notice that they are losing their lease for their Balboa Avenue storefront, and will need to move in 60 days. It is with heavy hearts that we share that unless a new buyer and new location are found immediately, Mysterious Galaxy will be forced to close its doors.

For nearly 27 years, Mysterious Galaxy Bookstore has been a vibrant part of the book community in San Diego, and a safe and welcoming place for those with a passion for books. The past several years have seen 5-10% growth in sales and increasing profits. The store's participation in regional and industry conventions, and its stellar in-store events, have earned it a special place in the hearts of authors and readers alike, and created a well-respected brand in Science Fiction, Fantasy, Horror, and Mystery praised throughout the publishing and bookselling industry.

The purchase of Mysterious Galaxy is expected to be a turn-key sale, retaining the staff and mission of Mysterious Galaxy to grow and expand the already established brand. We eagerly hope to find the right buyer, who will focus on the future success and growth of Mysterious Galaxy, and consider the best interests of its expert staff.

This is a growing and vibrant bookstore with a knowledgeable and enthusiastic staff, who hope Mysterious Galaxy will thrive for many years to come. They are seeking a passionate new owner who can act swiftly to save this community treasure, and destination for readers, authors, and publishers.

A note from the Staff

Over its 27-year tenure as San Diego’s premier destination for genre-fiction, Mysterious Galaxy has become a home for those who love the magical, the odd, the chilling, & everything in between. We have found a family here, among each other and our wonderful readers, and we hope this store can continue to provide an inclusive place for anyone and everyone who wishes to pick up a new book, find an old favorite, or spend time among people who love books and the stories they contain. You can help us by getting the word out and sharing #savemysteriousgalaxy.

We'd love for you to be our 11th hour miracle!

For serious inquiries about purchasing the store, please contact current Mysterious Galaxy Store Owner Terry Gilman ( by November 20.

For general questions and information about the sale of Mysterious Galaxy contact Store Manager Kelly Orazi at 858-268-4747 or

(Thanks, Colin!)

Labour pledges universal broadband and nationwide fibre, will renationalise the farcical, terrible BT Openreach [Cory Doctorow – Boing Boing]

Jeremy Corbyn's Labour Party have pledged universal, free broadband and a nationwide fibre buildout by 2030 if elected; they plan to renationalise parts of BT and tax Big Tech to pay for the fibre rollout.

BT under private ownership has been a catastrophe, especially the privatised, spun-out installation business Openreach, whose bureaucratic incompetence, arrogance, hostility and sheer, pig-headed idiocy make them seem like something out of a poorest-quality farce comedy. Labour proposes to re-nationalise this embarrassment of a company and make it pull its fucking socks up for literally the first time since it was privatised.

Boris Johnson's Conservatives have pledged a £5b fibre rollout; Labour has priced the rollout at a much more realistic £30b (BT estimates the cost at £40b, but they also estimated my broadband speed at 20mbps and rarely delivered 5).

I am a member of the Labour Party and a proud donor to Jeremy Corbyn's campaign.

The plan includes nationalising parts of BT - namely its digital network arm Openreach - to create a UK-wide network owned by the government.

"We're putting the money in and therefore we should own the benefit as well," said the shadow chancellor.

He said the roll-out would begin with communities that have the worst broadband access, followed by towns and smaller centres, and then by areas that are currently well served.

A Labour government would compensate shareholders by issuing government bonds. He said Labour had taken legal advice, including ensuring pension funds with investments in BT are not left out of pocket.

Labour pledges free broadband for all [BBC]


Kees Cook: security things in Linux v5.3 [Planet Debian]

Previously: v5.2.

Linux kernel v5.3 was released! I let this blog post get away from me, but it’s up now! :) Here are some security-related things I found interesting:

heap variable initialization
In the continuing work to remove “uninitialized” variables from the kernel, Alexander Potapenko added new init_on_alloc” and “init_on_free” boot parameters (with associated Kconfig defaults) to perform zeroing of heap memory either at allocation time (i.e. all kmalloc()s effectively become kzalloc()s), at free time (i.e. all kfree()s effectively become kzfree()s), or both. The performance impact of the former under most workloads appears to be under 1%, if it’s measurable at all. The “init_on_free” option, however, is more costly but adds the benefit of reducing the lifetime of heap contents after they have been freed (which might be useful for some use-after-free attacks or side-channel attacks). Everyone should enable CONFIG_INIT_ON_ALLOC_DEFAULT_ON=1 (or boot with “init_on_alloc=1“), and the more paranoid system builders should add CONFIG_INIT_ON_FREE_DEFAULT_ON=1 (or “init_on_free=1” at boot). As workloads are found that cause performance concerns, tweaks to the initialization coverage can be added.

pidfd_open() added
Christian Brauner has continued his pidfd work by creating the next needed syscall: pidfd_open(), which takes a pid and returns a pidfd. This is useful for cases where process creation isn’t yet using CLONE_PIDFD, and where /proc may not be mounted.

-Wimplicit-fallthrough enabled globally
Gustavo A.R. Silva landed the last handful of implicit fallthrough fixes left in the kernel, which allows for -Wimplicit-fallthrough to be globally enabled for all kernel builds. This will keep any new instances of this bad code pattern from entering the kernel again. With several hundred implicit fallthroughs identified and fixed, something like 1 in 10 were missing breaks, which is way higher than I was expecting, making this work even more well justified.

x86 CR4 & CR0 pinning
In recent exploits, one of the steps for making the attacker’s life easier is to disable CPU protections like Supervisor Mode Access (and Execute) Prevention (SMAP and SMEP) by finding a way to write to CPU control registers to disable these features. For example, CR4 controls SMAP and SMEP, where disabling those would let an attacker access and execute userspace memory from kernel code again, opening up the attack to much greater flexibility. CR0 controls Write Protect (WP), which when disabled would allow an attacker to write to read-only memory like the kernel code itself. Attacks have been using the kernel’s CR4 and CR0 writing functions to make these changes (since it’s easier to gain that level of execute control), but now the kernel will attempt to “pin” sensitive bits in CR4 and CR0 to avoid them getting disabled. This forces attacks to do more work to enact such register changes going forward. (I’d like to see KVM enforce this too, which would actually protect guest kernels from all attempts to change protected register bits.)

additional kfree() sanity checking
In order to avoid corrupted pointers doing crazy things when they’re freed (as seen in recent exploits), I added additional sanity checks to verify kmem cache membership and to make sure that objects actually belong to the kernel slab heap. As a reminder, everyone should be building with CONFIG_SLAB_FREELIST_HARDENING=1.

KASLR enabled by default on arm64
Just as Kernel Address Space Layout Randomization (KASLR) was enabled by default on x86, now KASLR has been enabled by default on arm64 too. It’s worth noting, though, that in order to benefit from this setting, the bootloader used for such arm64 systems needs to either support the UEFI RNG function or provide entropy via the “/chosen/kaslr-seed” Device Tree property.

hardware security embargo documentation
As there continues to be a long tail of hardware flaws that need to be reported to the Linux kernel community under embargo, a well-defined process has been documented. This will let vendors unfamiliar with how to handle things follow the established best practices for interacting with the Linux kernel community in a way that lets mitigations get developed before embargoes are lifted. The latest (and HTML rendered) version of this process should always be available here.

Those are the things I had on my radar. Please let me know if there are other things I should add! Linux v5.4 is almost here…

© 2019, Kees Cook. This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 License.
Creative Commons License


The AMD Ryzen 9 3950X review: 16 cores on 7nm with PCIe 4.0 [OSnews]

Deciding between building a mainstream PC and a high-end desktop has historically been very clear cut: if budget is a concern, and you’re interested in gaming, then typically a user looks to the mainstream. Otherwise, if a user is looking to do more professional high-compute work, then they look at the high-end desktop. Over the course of AMD’s recent run of high-core count Ryzen processors that line has blurred. This year, that line has disappeared. Even in 2016, mainstream CPUs used to top out at four cores: today they now top out at sixteen. Does anyone need sixteen cores? Yes. Does everyone need sixteen cores? No. Do I want sixteen cores? Yes.

1Password takes 200 million in venture capital [OSnews]

I wanted to be the first one to tell you: I’m incredibly proud to announce that we’ve partnered with Accel to help 1Password continue the amazing growth and success we’ve seen over the past 14 years. Accel will be investing USD$200 million for a minority stake in 1Password. Along with the investment – their largest initial investment in their 35-year history – Accel brings the experience and expertise we need to grow further and faster. I use 1Password, and I’m deeply skeptical of venture capital investments like these. 1Password has been profitable since its founding, so this investment is not a make-or-break kind of thing, which makes me worried about the future. Password managers require a lot of trust from their users, and trust is not something I give to venture capitalists.


Comic: Carbonated [Penny Arcade]

New Comic: Carbonated


Microsoft is working to bring 64-bit Intel app emulation to Windows on ARM [OSnews]

With Microsoft’s launch of the Surface Pro X last week, questions were once again raised about the apps that can run on it. The answer is that like any Windows 10 on ARM PC, it can run native ARM (ARM and ARM64) apps, and it can run emulated 32-bit Intel (x86) apps. This leaves out 64-bit Intel (AMD64, or x64) apps, so if you want an app that’s only available in an x64 flavor, such as Adobe Premiere Pro or Photoshop Elements, you can’t use it. That’s going to change though. Speaking with several sources, I can confirm that Microsoft is indeed working on bringing x64 app emulation to Windows on ARM. When that will happen is a bit more unclear, but it seems like it could be in Windows 10 21H1, which would mean that the general public will have access to it in the first half of 2021, and Windows Insiders will be able to test it out next year. Developing tools and technologies like this always carries an inherent risk – if it’s slow and cumbersome, people will complain and won’t want to use your operating system. If it’s fast and seamless, however, developers have little to no incentive to develop native ARM64 applications for Windows on ARM. That’s a fine line to tread, and definitely something Microsoft will have issues with. On a related note, the ARM64 version of Microsoft’s new Edge browser has been released.

Thursday, 14 November


Photos From New Orleans [Whatever]

During my sojourn into the South, I spent a couple of days in New Orleans, visiting my pal Monica Byrne, who was there learning guitar, and taking in the sights. Naturally, I took a bunch of pictures. Some of them are now up over on Flickr. Go have a look, if you like!


Link [Scripting News]

Can you imagine what AG Barr must think. It was his skill at hype that dug Trump out of the jam he was in with Mueller. What a gift. That was just Act One. Next would be the indictments for Justice people who started the Mueller investigation, to set an example for the people who remain. Either be loyal to Trump or get out. He probably figured he'd have DoJ and the spy agencies cleaned out by the end of next year. Then, after winning re-election, something Barr couldn't help with, they would be ready for Act Three, replete with goose-stepping storm troopers and gas chambers for people of color and non-Christians. Seems obvious that Trump and Barr's animated conversation was about Barr resigning. The Trump Train isn't going where he thought it was, and if Barr stays on board, he's probably going to jail. His bet was a long shot, and now it's impossibly long. Trump may survive impeachment, but he's not likely to become the American Hitler.


A Blüdraj By Any Other Name [Looking For Group]

Thursdays are LFGTBT, where we look back on LFG’s long history and share interesting trivia and commentary. As I mentioned Monday, one of my first assignments at Blind Ferret was reformatting the LFG scripts from before Sohmer used proper script […]

The post A Blüdraj By Any Other Name appeared first on Looking For Group.


[$] The Yocto Project 3.0 release []

The Yocto Project recently announced its 3.0 release, maintaining the spring/fall cadence it has followed for the past nine years. As well as the expected updates, it contains new thinking on getting the best of two worlds: source builds and prebuilt binaries. This fits well into a landscape where reproducibility and software traceability, all the way through to device updates, are increasingly important to handle complex security issues.

Genetic Evasion: using genetic algorithms to beat state-level internet censorship [Cory Doctorow – Boing Boing]

Geneva ("Genetic Evasion") is a project from the University of Maryland's Breakerspace ("a lab dedicated to scaling-up undergraduate research in computer and network security"); in a paper presented today at the ACM's Conference on Computer and Communications Security, a trio of Maryland researchers and a UC Berkeley colleague present their work on evolutionary algorithms as a means of defeating state-level network censorship.

Geneva develops countermeasures to deep-packet-inspection-based censorship systems that monitor network traffic for forbidden keywords and use packet-injection to break connections to forbidden resources.

Geneva's approach is typical of genetic algorithms: drawing on an arsenal of evasion techniques, Geneva attempts to circumvent filters, and the techniques that work are reinforced and then randomly varied to produce new generations of algorithms, and the best of these are then reinforced and allowed to reproduce, etc, etc.

The researchers describe this as a kind of inversion of the usual method for censorship evasion, in which researchers first determine how the censorship works, and then develop an evasion countermeasure. With Geneva, the system automatically probes censorship systems and develops countermeasures, and by evaluating which countermeasures work, researchers can infer how the censorship is accomplished.

The researchers used Geneva to successfully evade the Great Firewall of China, as well as national censorship systems in India and Kazakhstan. They propose that this kind of evasion tool could run continuously on the server side, providing a continuous stream of new tactics for bypassing censorship systems.

They also note that censors could use Geneva to find defects in their own systems and so they can fix them, but say that some of the fundamental errors in the assumptions of the censorship systems might be impossible to fix.

There has long been a cat-and-mouse game between censors and a community of researchers and practitioners who seek to evade them.The current evade-detect cycle requires extensive manual measurement, reverse-engineering, and creativity to obtain new means ofcensorship evasion. In this paper, we presented Geneva, a genetic algorithm for automatically discovering censorship evasion strategies against on-path network censors. Through evaluation both in-lab and against the GFW, we have demonstrated thatG eneva efficiently discovers strategies, and that its genetic building blocks allow it to both re-derive all previously published schemes that it can support, as well as derive altogether new strategies that prior work posited would not be effective. We believe Geneva represents an important first step towards automating censorship evasion. Tothis end, we have made our code and data publicly available at

Geneva: Evolving Censorship Evasion Strategies [Kevin Bock, George Hughey, Xiao Qiang and Dave Levin/ACM CCS ’19]

New artificial intelligence system automatically evolves to evade internet censorship [Science Daily]

(Thanks, EHD!)


Canadian Court Rejects Reverse Class Action Against BitTorrent Pirates [TorrentFreak]

Movie studio Voltage Pictures is no stranger to suing BitTorrent users.

The company and its subsidiaries have filed numerous lawsuits against alleged pirates in the United States, Europe, Canada and Australia, and likely made a lot of money doing so.

Voltage and other copyright holders who initiate these cases generally rely on IP addresses as evidence. With this information in hand, they ask the courts to order Internet providers to hand over the personal details of the associated account holders, so the alleged pirates can be pursued for settlements.

In Canada, Voltage tried to get these personal details from a large group of copyright infringers by filing a reverse class-action lawsuit, which is relatively rare. The movie company argued that this is a cheaper way to target large numbers of infringers at once.

The lawsuit in question was initially filed in 2016 and dragged on for years. The case revolves around a representative defendant, Robert Salna, who provides WiFi services to tenants. Through Salna, Voltage hoped to catch a group of infringers.

As the case went on the Canadian Internet Policy and Public Interest Clinic (CIPPIC) took interest in the case. The group, which is connected to the University of Ottawa, eventually intervened to represent anonymous defendants.

Among other things, CIPPIC argued that the movie company failed to identify an actual infringer. It targets multiple ‘infringing’ IP-addresses, which are not unique and can be used by multiple persons at once. In addition, unprotected WiFi networks may be open to the public at large.

Since the IP-addresses are not necessarily the infringers, Voltage has no reasonable cause to file the reverse class action, CIPPIC’s submission argued.

This week the Federal Court of Canada ruled on the matter and Justice Boswell agreed with CIPPIC.

“I agree with CIPPIC’s submissions that Voltage’s pleadings do not disclose a reasonable cause of action with respect to primary infringement.  While Voltage alleges that its forensic software identified a direct infringement in [sic] Voltage’s films, Voltage has failed to identify a Direct Infringer in its amended notice of application,” he writes.

Judge Boswell also agreed with CIPPIC’s critique of the class action procedure. These piracy cases deal with multiple infringers which will all have different circumstances. Reverse class action lawsuits are less suited to this scenario.

“A class proceeding is not a preferable procedure for the just and efficient resolution of any common issues which may exist.  The proposed proceeding would require multiple individual fact-findings for each class member on almost every issue.” 

The Judge further notes that there are other preferable means for Voltage to pursue its claims. These include joinder and consolidation of individual claims.

Based on these and other conclusions, Judge Boswell dismissed Voltage’s motion to certify the case as a reverse class action. In addition, the movie company was ordered to pay the costs of the proceeding, which could run to tens of thousands of dollars.

This is an important ruling as it takes a clear stand against the reverse class action strategy for this type of piracy case. And it may even go further than that. According to law professor Michael Geist, it can impact future file-sharing cases as well. 

“I think the decision does have implications that extend beyond this specific class action strategy as it calls into doubt the direct link between IP address and infringement and raises questions about whether merely using BitTorrent rises to the level of secondary infringement,” Geist tells TorrentFreak.

CIPPIC’s director David Fewer is also happy with the outcome. He tells the Globe and Mail that if the motion was accepted, it could have “seriously expanded the threat of copyright liability to anyone allowing others to use an internet connection.”

While the ruling is a clear dismissal of the reverse class action approach, there are similar file-sharing cases in Canada that have proven to be more effective. As long as this practice remains profitable, it will probably not go away.

A copy of Judge Boswell’s order is available here (pdf).

Source: TF, for the latest info on copyright, file-sharing, torrent sites and more. We also have VPN reviews, discounts, offers and coupons.


Upcoming Speaking Engagements [Schneier on Security]

This is a current list of where and when I am scheduled to speak:

The list is maintained on this page.


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