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Showing posts from 2014

No, Wired - The Internet is Actually Pretty Safe

Wired ran this article today:

The Internet Is Way Too Fragile and Insecure. Let's Build a New One
Featuring this:
You may have had the bad luck of being stuck on a runway when a router failure in Utah grounded commercial flights around the country for several hours. Or maybe you were frustrated by not being able to access government websites the day the .gov domain administration had a glitch in its system. These minor mishaps over the past decade are early rumblings of an uncomfortable truth: The Internet is more fragile than it appears.
The problems with the .gov websites and the FAA were caused by accidents, but such accidents can have widespread effects. In 2008, censorship efforts by the government of Pakistan unintentionally caused YouTube to become inaccessible throughout the world. In another incident in 2010, much of the Internet was rerouted through China for a few hours, including traffic between US military sites. China Telecom plausibly claimed this was also an accident…

9th Circuit Takes Closer Look at Arbitration Clauses in Browsewrap Agreements

This decision was handed down by the 9th Circuit the other day, which, for those who follow such things, covers all of California, and is of extremely high importance for the entire tech industry as a result.

Let's summarize why it is important:

1. Browsewrap contracts have traditionally been upheld as valid by the Courts - this means that when you click "I Agree" when signing into a website or installing a piece of software, you are, in fact, agreeing to the dozens of pages of legalese you absolutely have not read.

2. Recently, big companies have been inserting a variety of very troubling, anti-consumer clauses into such contracts, including mandatory arbitration clauses and waiver of right to join class action suits.

(2) has been very troubling, because recently, the Supreme Court basically upheld the notion that by entering a shrinkwrap or browsewrap contract, you can agree to waive your right to participate in a class action suit, and instead have the dispute move to…

Commercializing Open Source Licenses

Nearly a year ago in this blog, I had a post up arguing that Richard Stallman's position on the necessity of using strong copyleft licenses to protect the open source movement was misguided. I'm following that post, now, by explaining that, in fact, not only are strong copyleft licenses inappropriate for certain business cases, but, in others, they are a powerful tool in the monetization of commercial software - where Stallman seems to want to live in a world where copyleft licenses exist only to promote the open source movement as a whole. Let's review:

A "strong" copyleft license is a software license that requires all distributed derivative works of that software to be licensed under the same terms as the original license, which typically includes distribution of source code. E.g. GPL.

A "weak" copyleft license may allow works that are bundled with the original software to be distributed under a different license, as long as the original copyleft sof…

Revisiting AOL - Profits down 90% in Just Two Years

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Last August I wrote this post:
Of the $541M in revenue, $361.2 comes from advertising, or almost precisely 2/3 of all revenue. Further, an entire $166M comes from subscriptions, which is codeword for dial up subscribers. That's right, a full 30.6% of AOL's quarterly revenue comes from people with dial up modems. So, AOL generated 97.6% of its Q2 income from advertising and dialup. That means that all of AOL's other products, besides advertising and dialup, account for less than 3% of its income. That is not a good sign. Just to review, AOL defines "subscribers" in its 10K as:

As of December 31, 2013, we had approximately 2.5 million domestic AOL subscribers. Our subscribers are important users of Brand Group and Membership Group properties and engaging our subscribers, as well as former AOL subscribers who continue to utilize our free service plan, is an important component of our strategy. Our paid subscription plans provide bundles of products and services rangin…

So it Begins: Startups Getting Hurt By Net Neutrality

But don't take my word for it.

Via MIT Technology Review, here is Brad Burnham of Union Square Ventures:

The cable industry says such charges are sensible, especially when a few large content providers like Netflix can take up a large fraction of traffic. But if deep-pocketed players can pay for a faster, more reliable service, then small startups face a crushing disadvantage, says Brad Burnham, managing partner at Union Square Ventures, a VC firm based in New York City. “This is absolutely part of our calculus now,” he says.Burnham says his firm will now “stay away from” startups working on video and media businesses. It will also avoid investing in payment systems or in mobile wallets, which require ultrafast transaction times to make sense. “This is a bad scene for innovation in those areas,” Burnham says of the FCC proposal. Just a reminder to everyone, that recently, Mozilla proposed the following changes to the proposed FCC Net Neutrality Regs:

Mozilla's plan is a somewhat …

Guide to Email Production From Gmail

After spending about six hours (and losing several pounds due to fever-level frustration) working on this problem, I believe I have finally figured out how to perform something resembling methodical eDiscovery for Gmail emails if you, like me, work on a Mac. You will need the following:

1. Gmail
2. Google Vault (this software, truly, is spectacularly bad)
3. Stuffit Expander (yes, seriously, like that one from 1997)
4. Mac Mail
5. Acrobat Pro XI

Instructions:

1. Enable Google Vault for whatever email accounts in which you need to perform your production queries.

2. Perform your queries.

3. Use Google Vault's incredibly ham-fisted "export" function for each of your queries.

4. Serially download each of the multiple mbox.zip files that result from your exports.

6. Unzip them with Stuffit Expander (for some unholy reason surely only known to Cthulu and other eldritch gods, Google has chosen to use pkzip, instead of you know, just freaking zip, so your OS will think the file…

No, Killing Net Neutrality Does Not Help the Underdog

Wired recently published this infuriating op-ed entitled:
Killing Net Neutrality Helps Underdogs Succeed
Go ahead and read it - but suffice it to say that I'm not going to engage with the majority of what is said there - I just don't have time.

I'd just like to address one point that is made therein:

Net neutrality activists often fear that because small content creators couldn’t compete in such a market, it would in turn reduce the diversity of internet content. (For example, some argue that users would “naturally gravitate” to the big brands who can afford to pay the bill if Comcast and Verizon do decide to charge them more for streaming video over their pipes.) But the video market is already very different from the rest of the web. Because it doesn’t make sense to build one’s own streaming infrastructure when you can embed a YouTube player that better delivers streaming capacity anyway, the “small guys” creating video content already work through large platforms such a…