• Linus Torvalds calls Romney 'a f***ing moron'

    posted by Keito
    2012-09-28 11:23:01
    This was in response to Romney's much-ridiculed suggestion that air passengers should be able to open aircraft windows in an emergency, such as the one recently experienced by his wife. It also comes about three weeks after Torvalds used his Google+ soapbox to call Romney's religion, Mormonism, "batshit crazy".

    Go Linus! =D
  • Has Apple Peaked?

    posted by Keito
    2012-09-26 21:15:00
    'If Steve Jobs were still alive, would the new map application on the iPhone 5 be such an unmitigated disaster? Interesting question, isn’t it?

    As Apple’s chief executive, Jobs was a perfectionist. He had no tolerance for corner-cutting or mediocre products. The last time Apple released a truly substandard product — MobileMe, in 2008 — Jobs gathered the team into an auditorium, berated them mercilessly and then got rid of the team leader in front of everybody, according to Walter Isaacson’s biography of Jobs. The three devices that made Apple the most valuable company in America — the iPod, the iPhone and the iPad — were all genuine innovations that forced every other technology company to play catch-up.

    No doubt, the iPhone 5, which went on sale on Friday, will be another hit. Apple’s halo remains powerful. But there is nothing about it that is especially innovative. Plus, of course, it has that nasty glitch. In rolling out a new operating system for the iPhone 5, Apple replaced Google’s map application — the mapping gold standard — with its own, vastly inferior, application, which has infuriated its customers. With maps now such a critical feature of smartphones, it seems to be an inexplicable mistake.

    And maybe that’s all it is — a mistake, soon to be fixed. But it is just as likely to turn out to be the canary in the coal mine. Though Apple will remain a highly profitable company for years to come, I would be surprised if it ever gives us another product as transformative as the iPhone or the iPad.

    Part of the reason is obvious: Jobs isn’t there anymore. It is rare that a company is so completely an extension of one man’s brain as Apple was an extension of Jobs. While he was alive, that was a strength; now it’s a weakness. Apple’s current executive team is no doubt trying to maintain the same demanding, innovative culture, but it’s just not the same without the man himself looking over everybody’s shoulder. If the map glitch tells us anything, it is that.

    But there is also a less obvious — yet possibly more important — reason that Apple’s best days may soon be behind it. When Jobs returned to the company in 1997, after 12 years in exile, Apple was in deep trouble. It could afford to take big risks and, indeed, to search for a new business model, because it had nothing to lose.

    Fifteen years later, Apple has a hugely profitable business model to defend — and a lot to lose. Companies change when that happens. “The business model becomes a gilded cage, and management won’t do anything to challenge it, while doing everything they can to protect it,” says Larry Keeley, an innovation strategist at Doblin, a consulting firm.

    It happens in every industry, but it is especially easy to see in technology because things move so quickly. It was less than 15 years ago that Microsoft appeared to be invincible. But once its Windows operating system and Office applications became giant moneymakers, Microsoft’s entire strategy became geared toward protecting its two cash cows. It ruthlessly used its Windows platform to promote its own products at the expense of rivals. (The Microsoft antitrust trial took dead aim at that behavior.) Although Microsoft still makes billions, its new products are mainly “me-too” versions of innovations made by other companies.

    Now it is Apple’s turn to be king of the hill — and, not surprisingly, it has begun to behave in a very similar fashion. You can see it in the patent litigation against Samsung, a costly and counterproductive exercise that has nothing to do with innovation and everything to do with protecting its turf.

    And you can see it in the decision to replace Google’s map application. Once an ally, Google is now a rival, and the thought of allowing Google to promote its maps on Apple’s platform had become anathema. More to the point, Apple wants to force its customers to use its own products, even when they are not as good as those from rivals. Once companies start acting that way, they become vulnerable to newer, nimbler competitors that are trying to create something new, instead of milking the old. Just ask BlackBerry, which once reigned supreme in the smartphone market but is now roadkill for Apple and Samsung.

    Even before Jobs died, Apple was becoming a company whose main goal was to defend its business model. Yes, he would never have allowed his minions to ship such an embarrassing application. But despite his genius, it is unlikely he could have kept Apple from eventually lapsing into the ordinary. It is the nature of capitalism that big companies become defensive, while newer rivals emerge with better, smarter ideas.

    “Oh my god,” read one Twitter message I saw. “Apple maps is the worst ever. It is like using MapQuest on a BlackBerry.”

    MapQuest and BlackBerry.

  • Google agrees to pay largest fine in FTC history for bypassing Safari privacy settings

    posted by Keito
    2012-09-26 21:07:05
    'Google on Thursday agreed to pay a record $22.5 million fine for ignoring security settings designed to prevent advertisers from tracking users with cookies in Apple's Safari web browser, bringing an end to a six month investigation aimed at better protecting consumers' privacy rights online.

    ### FTC members conflicted over settlement

    The penalty imposed by the United States Federal Trade Commission is the largest the agency has ever issued and the first for violations of its Internet privacy order.

    Despite the record setting fine, FTC members issued a statement (PDF) noting that the fine posed no serious threat to the company, and that Google agreed to pay the fine only if it could "denial of the substantive allegations in the Commission’s civil penalty complaint."

    Commissioner J. Thomas Rosch voted against the order, arguing that the FTC's settlement with Google was not in the public interest, primarily because it allowed Google to deny the allegations raised by the FTC.

    The FTC wasn't just responding to Google's bypassing of Safari settings. Instead, the settlement involved the larger issue of an agreement the FTC made with Google last year addressing the privacy of users. Google's willful bypassing of Safari's settings violated that earlier consent order, the commission determined.

    Allowing Google to deny liability while still paying a fine divided the Commission members 4 to 1 against Rosch. "We strongly disagree with Commissioner Rosch’s view that if the Commission allows a defendant to deny the complaint’s substantive allegations, the settlement is not in the public interest," other members wrote.

    "Here, as in all cases, a defendant’s denial of liability in a settlement agreement has no bearing on the Commission’s determination as to whether it has reason to believe the defendant has violated the law or that a proposed settlement will afford appropriate relief for the Commission’s charges."

    ### Google's lying to users deemed more serious than feeding them ads they didn't want

    Commission members noted that the heart of the charges were aimed, not at Google's continuing to collect identifying data through cookies, but primarily at Google's false instructions to Safari users telling them that they didn't need to opt out because, Google had lied, Apple's default Safari settings were being respected by the company and that no further action on users' part was necessary.

    Commissioners who voted for the deal wrote that "the historic $22.5 million fine is an appropriate remedy for our charge that Google violated a Commission order by misrepresenting to Safari browser users how to avoid targeted advertising by Google."

    "In our view," they added, "the most important question is whether Google will abide by the underlying FTC consent order going forward."

    ### There's more where that came from

    "We firmly believe that the Commission’s swift imposition of a $22.5 million fine helps to promote such future compliance," the group stated in response to Rosch's opposition to the settlement. "With a company of Google’s size, almost any penalty can be dismissed as insufficient.

    "But it is hardly inconsequential to impose a $22.5 million civil penalty when the accompanying complaint does not allege that the conduct at issue yielded significant revenue or endured for a significant period of time.

    "This settlement is intended to provide a strong message to Google and other companies under order that their actions will be under close scrutiny and that the Commission will respond to violations quickly and vigorously."

    Google remains under its consent order, and the FTC has left the door open to additional fines if the search giant continues to violate its agreement with the government not to bypass the rights of users and lie to them about what they are doing or provide false instructions about how to opt out of Google's data collections.

    ### Busted by Old Media

    Google's investigation by the FTC, initiated in February, followed a Wall Street Journal investigation that alleged Google and other ad networks had bypassed Safari's security protocols, violating its October 2011 privacy settlement with the FTC.

    Specifically, the FTC charged that for several months in 2011 and 2012, Google placed a certain advertising tracking cookie on the computers of Safari users who visited sites within Google’s DoubleClick advertising network. It did so, the agency asserted, despite previous promises to Safari users that they would automatically be opted out of such tracking as a result of the default settings in Safari on Macs, iPhones and iPads.

    "The record setting penalty in this matter sends a clear message to all companies under an FTC privacy order," said FTC Chairman Jon Leibowitz. "No matter how big or small, all companies must abide by FTC orders against them and keep their privacy promises to consumers, or they will end up paying many times what it would have cost to comply in the first place."

    ### Google denied wrongdoing early and often

    For its part, Google in a statement to AppleInsider previously denied the claims waged by the Journal, alleging the paper "mischaracterizes what happened and why." The company issued a statement saying:

    We used known Safari functionality to provide features that signed-in Google users had enabled. It’s important to stress that these advertising cookies do not collect personal information.

    Unlike other major browsers, Apple’s Safari browser blocks third-party cookies by default. However, Safari enables many web features for its users that rely on third parties and third-party cookies, such as “Like” buttons. Last year, we began using this functionality to enable features for signed-in Google users on Safari who had opted to see personalized ads and other content--such as the ability to “+1” things that interest them.

    To enable these features, we created a temporary communication link between Safari browsers and Google’s servers, so that we could ascertain whether Safari users were also signed into Google, and had opted for this type of personalization. But we designed this so that the information passing between the user’s Safari browser and Google’s servers was anonymous--effectively creating a barrier between their personal information and the web content they browse.

    However, the Safari browser contained functionality that then enabled other Google advertising cookies to be set on the browser. We didn’t anticipate that this would happen, and we have now started removing these advertising cookies from Safari browsers. It’s important to stress that, just as on other browsers, these advertising cookies do not collect personal information.

    ### Google floats above the law, pays millions only when caught

    Google's FTC fine pales in comparison to the $500 million forfeiture settlement it paid the US government after allowing a Canadian pharmacy to illegally advertise drugs in the United States, supporting the illegal import of prescription drugs and controlled substances into the country.

    That forfeiture, to avoid further litigation with the government, was also described as the largest ever of its kind. Google's criminal activity was only discovered after David Whitaker, the target of a multimillion dollar financial fraud scheme, was apprehended and confessed to federal investigators that he had been advertising illegal drugs using Google's AdWords program.

    Whitaker demonstrated to investigators how he had set up a number of websites using Google's AdWords to advertise illegal drugs. Further investigation revealed that Google knew about the fraudulent advertising as early as 2003, but failed to stop the online pharmacies because it was making money on them.

    The Canadian pharmacies Google assisted were not just skirting inconvenient laws to provide Americans with cheaper drugs. Instead, investigators noted that "Google was also on notice that many pharmacies accepting an online consultation rather than a prescription charged a premium for doing so because individuals seeking to obtain prescription drugs without a valid prescription were willing to pay higher prices for the drugs."

    Government investigators specifically noted that Google had acknowledged “that it improperly assisted Canadian online pharmacy advertisers," not only allowing them to place illegal AdWords advertisements, but that also "from 2003 through 2009, Google provided customer support to some of these Canadian online pharmacy advertisers to assist them in placing and optimizing their AdWords advertisements and in improving the effectiveness of their websites."
  • How to root & install CyanogenMod on a Samsung Galaxy S2

    posted by Keito
    2012-09-25 20:05:13
    Here's a quick breakdown of the process. (For a more in-depth guide, please check out this page.)

    1/ Find correct insecure kernel for our current ROM firmware version
    2/ Use ODIN and insecure kernel to root phone
    3/ Download CyanogenMod (and optional extra google apps) and place on SD Card
    4/ Backup current ROM
    5/ Install CyanogenMod

    Right, so let's get down to it!...

    1/ Find correct insecure kernel for our current ROM firmware version

    Finding the correct insecure kernel version is easy, simply go to Settings -> About phone -> Kernel Version. Note the string present there

    Example (yours will almost certainly be different):

    What matters most (KG1) in this case, is in bold. Then find the matching file under the download section of this thread.

    Example (yours will almost certainly be different):

    The XX and OXA identifiers are not that important. Usually a "KG1" kernel is a "KG1" kernel, and that is that. Sometimes (pretty rare) it happens there will be multiple different kernels with the same name in different firmwares, that are actually different. If this happens, they are usually only very minor changes and you should expect them to still be fully compatible. The "XX" and "OXA" identifiers are there so the very advanced users can deduce which full firmware the insecure kernel file was taken from.

    Don't worry too much, just find the matching download and use it.

    2/ Use ODIN and insecure kernel to root phone

    - Download ODIN then install it.

    - (USB) Disconnect your phone from your computer if it is connected.
    - Start ODIN.
    - Click the PDA button, and select CF-Root-xxx-vX.X.tar
    - Put your phone in download mode by powering down the handset, then press power+volume-down+home buttons all at once. Hold down until download mode screen shows.
    - (USB) Connect the phone to your computer.
    - Make sure repartition is NOT checked.
    - Click the START button.
    - Wait for the phone to reboot.
    - Done (shouldn't take more than ~30 secs).

    3/ Download CyanogenMod (and optional extra google apps) and place on SD Card

    - Download your preferred version of CyanogenMod.
    - Optional: Download the Google Apps for the device. (select the one that matches your CM version!).
    - Place the CyanogenMod file on the root of the SD card.
    - Optional: Place the Google Apps .zip on the root of the SD card also.

    4/ Backup current ROM

    Now you're rooted, it's a good idea to backup the current ROM (with apps, settings, etc) before installing any custom ROM. If you want to retain your apps and settings when installing a new ROM, use Titanium Backup (not covered in this guide).

    - Boot into recovery mode by powering down the handset, then press power+volume-up+home buttons all at once. Hold down until recovery mode screen shows.
    - Once the device boots into recovery mode, use the side volume buttons to move around and the power button to select.
    - Select backup and restore.
    - Select backup (this may take some time).
    - Once the backup has finished, select +++++Go Back+++++

    Now, you can always boot into recovery and restore the current ROM, should anything go awry with our CyanogenMod install.

    5/ Install CyanogenMod

    - Select the option to Wipe data/factory reset.
    - Select the option to Wipe cache partition.
    - Select Install zip from sdcard.
    - Select Choose zip from sdcard.
    - Select the CyanogenMod
    - Optional: Install the Google Apps by performing steps 7 - 9 again and choosing the Google Apps
    - Once the installation has finished, select +++++Go Back+++++ to get back to the main menu, and select the Reboot system now option.

    CONGRATULATIONS!!!! The Samsung Galaxy S II should now boot into CyanogenMod.

    PS: Massive thanks to the Steve Kondik and the CyanogenMod team for a great ROM, and humongous thanks to Chainfire for his guides/downloads/work.
  • Copyright Killbots Strike Again: Official DNC Livestream Taken Down By Just About Every Copyright Holder

    posted by Keito
    2012-09-05 21:21:27
    'Here we go again. Less than 24 hours ago, content-protection bots killed a livestream of the Hugo Awards, thanks to the brief appearance of fully approved clips from an episode of Dr. Who. The whole situation was completely absurd to anyone harboring the tiniest vestige of common sense, but IP-protection software isn't built on common sense: it's built on algorithms.

    This time, content protection via crawling bots have taken down another approved, perfectly legal stream. The victim this time? The Democratic National Convention's official stream, hosted at YouTube. As Wired reports, if you're looking to catch up on last night's activities, including a speech by Michelle Obama, don't bother:

    The video, posted by the official YouTube account for the convention, DemConvention2012, was blocked, according to YouTube, for ostensibly infringing on the copyright of one of many possible suspects:


    This video contains content from WMG, SME, Associated Press (AP), UMG, Dow Jones, New York Times Digital, The Harry Fox Agency, Inc. (HFA), Warner Chappell, UMPG Publishing and EMI Music Publishing, one or more of whom have blocked it in your country on copyright grounds.
    Sorry about that.


    When contacted by Wired for comment, Erica Sackin, an Obama campaign staffer who works on digital outreach, had no knowledge of the outage, asked this reporter for the url and then upon seeing the takedown, said, "I'll have to call you back."

    The video has since been updated to state that "This video is private." There's probably quite a bit going on behind the scenes at the moment, but fortunately Wired snagged the complete list of claimants for future reference.

    Take a good, long look at that list. There's a few of the usual suspects in there, including AP, UMG and Warner, entities not known to be shy about claiming content that isn't theirs.

    Now, these entities aren't directly responsible for this takedown. This is more of an automated match situation, but it still doesn't change the fact that the inherent stupidity of the action, automated or not, does absolutely nothing to lock down stray, unmonetized content and absolutely everything to highlight the ridiculous nature of copyright protection in a digital age.

    If Google can work with copyright holders to produce content matching software, it seems like it might be possible to designate certain accounts or entities as "off limits" from the wandering killbots. If the stream is authorized by, I don't know, the party of the current President of the United States, maybe, just fucking maybe, everything's "above board."

    Sure, defining legitimate, pre-approved accounts may prove to be as difficult as determining which content is infringing and which isn't, but this should be the sort of thing that content holders should be working toward, rather than simply moving from disaster to disaster, smugly secure in the knowledge that filthy file sharers are getting content-blocked thousands of times a day.

    Nice going, huge list of content holders. Your boundless, maximalist enthusiasm is just another nail in the coffin containing what's left of copyright's reputation.'