Monday, 27 January

13:00 EST

Feds, states consider tag-teaming massive Google investigation [Ars Technica]

Google logo seen during Google Developer Days (GDD) in Shanghai, China, September 2019.

Enlarge / Google logo seen during Google Developer Days (GDD) in Shanghai, China, September 2019. (credit: Lyu Liang | VCG | Getty Images)

Officials from the Department of Justice will reportedly be meeting this week with representatives of a 50-state coalition of state attorneys general to discuss tag-teaming their efforts to determine if Google's parent company, Alphabet, is in violation of antitrust laws.

At least seven of the state attorneys general, including Texas AG Ken Paxton, who is spearheading the state effort, are expected to attend. The Wall Street Journal, citing the ever-popular "people familiar with the matter," was the first to report on the meeting.

The Department of Justice confirmed in July that it was launching an antitrust probe into "market-leading online platforms." Google confirmed in September that it is indeed among those platforms being investigated.

Read 5 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Verizon brings 5G to the Super Bowl—for part of the stadium, anyway [Ars Technica]

A sign that says Super Bowl 54 outdoors in Miami.

Enlarge / A sign near the Fox Sports South Beach studio compound prior to Super Bowl LIV in Miami Beach, Florida. (credit: Getty Images | Cliff Hawkins)

Verizon's 5G hype train is heading to the Super Bowl, but the carrier won't tell us whether its new network will cover all the seats in the stadium.

With Super Bowl LIV at Hard Rock Stadium in Miami scheduled for February 2, Verizon emailed a media alert to Ars and other news outlets on Wednesday last week, bragging that it will "power the first Super Bowl featuring 5G." Notably missing from the news alert was any indication of how many fans will be able to use the 5G network from their seats during the game.

We asked Verizon if all the seats and other parts of the stadium will have 5G access and got a vague answer from the company spokesperson who sent out the media alert: "Fans can access 5G UWB [Ultra Wideband] in the bowl seating area, parts of the concourse, ticketing areas, and parking lot."

Read 9 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Mozilla Has Banned Nearly 200 Malicious Firefox Add-ons Over the Last Two Weeks [Slashdot]

Over the past two weeks, Mozilla's add-on review team has banned 197 Firefox add-ons that were caught executing malicious code, stealing user data, or using obfuscation to hide their source code. From a report: The add-ons have been banned and removed from the Mozilla Add-on (AMO) portal to prevent new installs, but they've also been disabled in the browsers of the users who already installed them. The bulk of the ban was levied on 129 add-ons developed by 2Ring, a provider of B2B software. The ban was enforced because the add-ons were downloading and executing code from a remote server. According to Mozilla's rules, add-ons must self-contain all their code, and not download code dynamically from remote locations. Mozilla has recently begun strictly enforcing this rule across its entire add-on ecosystem. A similar ban for downloading and executing remote code in users' Firefox browsers was also levied against six add-ons developed by Tamo Junto Caixa, and three add-ons that were deemed fake premium products (their names were not shared).

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

No, coronavirus has nothing to do with Corona beer [Boing Boing]

As seen in the above Google Trends graph the last few days, there has been a spike in people searching Google for the words corona, beer, and virus. Don't worry, drinking Corona beer does not cause 2019-nCoV. Below are the results mapped onto regions of the world.

TV reporter who uttered racial slur on air says she "combined the names of the Knicks and the Lakers" [Boing Boing]

An MSNBC correspondent hurriedly relating some historical context from basketball legend Kobe Bryant's career stumbled over the name of his team, the LA Lakers.

"Earlier today, while reporting on the tragic news of Kobe Bryant’s passing, I unfortunately stuttered on air, combining the names of the Knicks and the Lakers to say “Nakers.”", wrote Alison Morris. "Please know I did not & would NEVER use a racist term. I apologize for the confusion this caused."

That explains the hard R, but not the G. Given that Morris obviously didn't intend to say a racist slur, the usual (and I think more plausible) explanation when this sort of thing happens is that it was a brainfart, admitting the utterance while disclaiming intent and highlighting the weird, mangled manouvers our brains sometimes take under pressure. However, that explanation cops to the bad word lurking in one's neurons, and a Rochester, N.Y., weatherman lost his job recently after such an explanation was offered in his case.

So "Nakers" it is.

Florida men play Uno in the road during a red light [Boing Boing]

In a prank commenting on bad traffic in Cape Coral, Florida, Paxten Sester and his buddies passed time during a long red light by playing Uno in the middle of the road. Dylan Kjos caught the minute-long gag on video for TikTok and its since gone viral.

"(After a minute,) we rushed back into the truck, thinking that the light was about to change. And we still sat in the truck for about another minute," Kjos said.

According to UPI, "Kjos and his friends said they were aiming to poke fun at the local traffic, which they said is particularly slow during the winter.

Listen: loudspeakers broadcast corona virus closure messages to the empty streets of Shanghai Disneyland [Boing Boing]

Deutsche Welle's footage of the empty entrance plaza of Shanghai Disneyland as the PA system broadcasts a message that the park is "temporarily closed" for "prevention and control of the disease outbreak" is indeed "straight out of a Hollywood horror movie," as the caption says.

(Image: Breathe Healthy, modified; Jeremy Thompson, CC BY, modified)

Antivirus firm Avast sold user data via 'Jumpshot' to Pepsi, Google, Microsoft — REPORT [Boing Boing]

Documents show that the antivirus company Avast has been selling its users' internet browsing data, through a subsidiary named Jumpshot, to clients that include Pepsi, Google, and Microsoft, reports Motherboard. The report is the result of a joint investigation between the VICE News site and PC Mag.

“An Avast antivirus subsidiary sells 'Every search. Every click. Every buy. On every site,'” and clients of that data broker firm, Jumpstart, have included Home Depot, Google, Microsoft, Pepsi, and McKinsey,” Joseph Cox at Vice/Motherboard.

“An antivirus program used by hundreds of millions of people around the world is selling highly sensitive web browsing data to many of the world's biggest companies,” the joint investigation with VICE Motherboard and PCMag found.

Excerpt:

The documents, from a subsidiary of the antivirus giant Avast called Jumpshot, shine new light on the secretive sale and supply chain of peoples' internet browsing histories. They show that the Avast antivirus program installed on a person's computer collects data, and that Jumpshot repackages it into various different products that are then sold to many of the largest companies in the world. Some past, present, and potential clients include Google, Yelp, Microsoft, McKinsey, Pepsi, Sephora, Home Depot, Condé Nast, Intuit, and many others. Some clients paid millions of dollars for products that include a so-called "All Clicks Feed," which can track user behavior, clicks, and movement across websites in highly precise detail.

Avast claims to have more than 435 million active users per month, and Jumpshot says it has data from 100 million devices. Avast collects data from users that opt-in and then provides that to Jumpshot, but multiple Avast users told Motherboard they were not aware Avast sold browsing data, raising questions about how informed that consent is.

The data obtained by Motherboard and PCMag includes Google searches, lookups of locations and GPS coordinates on Google Maps, people visiting companies' LinkedIn pages, particular YouTube videos, and people visiting porn websites. It is possible to determine from the collected data what date and time the anonymized user visited YouPorn and PornHub, and in some cases what search term they entered into the porn site and which specific video they watched.

Read more:
Leaked Documents Expose the Secretive Market for Your Web Browsing Data [Joseph Cox / VICE, via techmeme]

Amazon threatened to fire two tech workers who spoke about climate and Amazon's business, then 357 more workers joined them [Boing Boing]

Last October, two Amazon employees -- Maren Costa (UX designer) and Jamie Kowalski (software engineer) spoke on the record to the Washington Post about their employer's complicity in the climate crisis, including the provision of cloud computing services to energy company in search of new sources of fossil fuels.

Amazon threatened to fire them. Rather than shutting up, the two employees recruited fellow members of Amazon Employees for Climate Justice to publish 357 on-the-record, attributed condemnations of Amazon's climate policies from current Amazon tech workers.

It's the latest installment in the tech worker uprising in which tech workers are realizing that the high demand for their skills and massive talent shortage gives them incredible leverage over their employers. Tech workers are a critical part of the fight for a better world, because they can both hold their employers to account and provide accurate assessments of the culture, choices and decisions that feed into our current tech landscape.

“Amazon’s main principle is Customer Obsession, it is time to broaden it and get obsessed with Humanity. Collaborating all together we can save our Planet. With great power comes great responsibility — Amazon should make drastic changes in the way it operates, shift company goals and values to be an example for other corporations. Amazon’s order of 100,000 electric vans is the right move for our supply chain’s future and is also a step in the right direction that sends a signal to the market to help the transition to clean technology. Well done! At the same time, Amazon should end its contracts with oil and gas companies. Our AI and ML are being used for ‘finding oil,’ ‘producing oil,’ and ‘optimizing production’ (source: AWS Oil & Gas public website).”

— Mila Rahman, DSP Payments Lead

Amazon Employees Share Our Views on Company Business [Amazon Employees for Climate Justice/Medium]

Amazon employees launch mass defiance of company communications policy in support of colleagues [Jay Greene/Washington Post]

Find the USB-C hub of your dreams [Boing Boing]

As the technical garbage fire that is USB-C burns merrily along, efforts continue to help us connect one gadget to another with reliable outcomes. USB-hubs.org is a website that compares the myriad of superfically identical but differently-capable USB hubs currently available, so you can decide which $20 piece of junk at least has the holes, slots and dangly bits you require.

I scrolled down and spotted the Chotech model that I recommend [Amazon], so I know the page's creator has done the work on power delivery and Thunderbolt/DP. But it's expensive, designed exclusively for current-issue MacBooks, and lacks other essential features like VGA, so it isn't perfect!

Link [tinywords]

falling light rinses over his face… father at the sink  

Netflix’s first full Ghost in the Shell trailer shows the series like you’ve never seen it before [The Verge - All Posts]

To call Netflix’s visual take on Ghost in the Shell different would be an understatement. The animated series has gotten a full makeover in the form of CGI that looks more suited to a Pixar film or a video game; it’s a beautiful, albeit drastic, change from the drawn animation most fans have come to know. In the first full trailer for Ghost in the Shell: SAC_2045, which is set to arrive this April, Netflix offers a full look at the cast, from Major to Batou.

Ghost in the Shell is a cyberpunk series centered on a counter-cyberterrorist organization that spans manga, anime, games, and films. Although there have been several iterations of its story, Ghost in the Shell generally follows Major Motoko Kusanagi, a cyborg cop, and crime-solve...

Continue reading…

Today’s best discounts are on Amazon’s Echo Buds, the latest iPad, and more [The Verge - All Posts]

Photo by Chris Welch / The Verge

Today’s best deals are a mix of fresh offers we’re seeing for the first time and a few returning favorites. The headliner is Amazon’s Echo Buds, which are $40 off right now, bringing the truly wireless earphones down to a much more reasonable $90. If you’re looking for a set of affordable wireless earbuds that offer noise cancellation, your search is over. Despite the annoyance of charging these via Micro USB, you won’t find a better value.

The seventh-generation iPad has received a significant price cut — the same one we saw during Black Friday and Cyber Monday. At Amazon and Best Buy, the base model with 32GB of storage starts at $249.99 (usually $329.99). If you want more storage (four times as much, specifically) the 128GB version...

Continue reading…

Kentucky Route Zero’s final act was worth the wait [The Verge - All Posts]

Kentucky Route Zero starts out slow and simple. An old man named Conway pulls into a gas station to ask for directions. He has a rusting truck, rumbling away in the background, stuffed with antiques. But he can’t find his destination. That road, he’s told, is not easy to reach. What follows is a surreal road trip that’s constantly changing. Kentucky Route Zero remains slow across its five acts (and multiple interludes). But with the exception of that opening scene, it’s never simple.

It’s impossible to talk about this adventure game without discussing its development history. Kentucky Route Zero debuted in 2013 with the first of five planned episodes. Subsequent acts were expected to launch every few months… but things didn’t play out...

Continue reading…

12:00 EST

House legislators want to hand NASA’s human spaceflight program over to Boeing [Ars Technica]

Mars or the Moon? It’s a debate that has bedeviled NASA for decades.

Enlarge / Mars or the Moon? It’s a debate that has bedeviled NASA for decades. (credit: Aurich Lawson / Getty Images)

On Friday evening, a US House of Representatives committee released H.R. 5666, an authorization act for NASA. Such bills are not required for an agency to function, and they do not directly provide funding—that comes from the appropriations committees in the House and Senate. Authorization bills provide a "sense" of Congress, however and indicate what legislators will be willing to fund in the coming years.

The big-picture takeaway from the bipartisan legislation is that it rejects the Artemis Program put forth by the Trump White House, which established the Moon as a cornerstone of human exploration for the next decade or two and as a place for NASA astronauts to learn the skills needed to expand toward Mars in the late 2030s and 2040s. Instead, the House advocates for a "flags-and-footprints" strategy whereby astronauts make a few short visits to the Moon beginning in 2028 and then depart for a Mars orbit mission by 2033.

Space policy

Whatever one might think about NASA's Artemis Program to land humans on the Moon by 2024, it attempted to learn from decades of space policy failure. Artemis set a near-term target, 2024, for a human return to the Moon that provided some urgency for NASA to get moving. It also sought to develop a "sustainable" path with meaningful activities on the surface of the Moon, including polar landings, efforts to tap lunar resources (the House bill specifically prohibits this), and establishment of a base.

Read 13 remaining paragraphs | Comments

Seamless, Grubhub Deliver Confusion With Mistaken Restaurant Listings [Slashdot]

An anonymous reader shares a report: Pim Techamuanvivit was managing her Michelin-starred Thai restaurant in San Francisco, Kin Khao, around 8:30 p.m. on Saturday when she got an unexpected call. A customer was wondering when food from his order on the online food delivery company Seamless was coming, as he had been waiting 45 minutes. "I think you must be confused, because I don't do delivery," Techamuanvivit told him. Techamuanvivit said the man then asked, "So what are you doing on Seamless?" The restaurateur soon discovered that her restaurant had a page on both Seamless and Grubhub. Both brands are owned by Grubhub, a Chicago online food delivery company that merged with New York's Seamless in 2013. The delivery sites listed her restaurant and its address with a menu that she does not serve, including pad Thai and, of all things in a restaurant that specializes in lesser-known Thai regional cuisine, Vietnamese pho. "It's outrageous. They can't get away with this. They can't totally fake a restaurant that doesn't do delivery and go pick up food from, I don't know, some rat-infested warehouse somewhere and deliver to my guests," said Techamuanvivit, who added that she intends to sue Seamless. Grubhub said that the company partners with more than 140,000 restaurants in over 2,700 U.S. cities, and that most orders are from restaurants with which it has an explicit partnership. The company recently started adding other restaurants to its sites without such a partnership, when it finds restaurants that are in high demand, it said. In those cases, someone from the company orders the food ahead or at the restaurant, and a driver is sent to pick it up, it added.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Leaked Documents Expose the Secretive Market for Your Web Browsing Data [Slashdot]

An antivirus program used by hundreds of millions of people around the world is selling highly sensitive web browsing data to many of the world's biggest companies, a joint investigation by Motherboard and PCMag has found. From the report: Our report relies on leaked user data, contracts, and other company documents that show the sale of this data is both highly sensitive and is in many cases supposed to remain confidential between the company selling the data and the clients purchasing it. The documents, from a subsidiary of the antivirus giant Avast called Jumpshot, shine new light on the secretive sale and supply chain of peoples' internet browsing histories. They show that the Avast antivirus program installed on a person's computer collects data, and that Jumpshot repackages it into various different products that are then sold to many of the largest companies in the world. Some past, present, and potential clients include Google, Yelp, Microsoft, McKinsey, Pepsi, Sephora, Home Depot, Conde Nast, Intuit, and many others. Some clients paid millions of dollars for products that include a so-called "All Clicks Feed," which can track user behavior, clicks, and movement across websites in highly precise detail.

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Watch Tony Hawk skate in the '80s [Boing Boing]

In addition to being an amazing skateboarder, Tony Hawk is also just cool.

Jeffrey Epstein: Why won't Prince Andrew respond to SDNY and FBI interview requests? [Boing Boing]

Why won't Prince Andrew speak to the U.S. about what he knows of Jeffrey Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell's child sex trafficking operation?

US prosecutors say they want to interview Prince Andrew about Epstein's crimes, and Andrew isn't cooperating.

Has he been a bad boy?

Prince Andrew may be innocent, as he claims in the press, but he sure isn't acting like an innocent man with investigators.

The Southern District of New York and FBI have reached out to Prince Andrew’s attorneys to interview him, but he hasn’t responded at all, according to U.S. Attorney Geoffrey Berman.

Berman delivered an update on the U.S. investigation into Jeffrey Epstein, Ghislaine Maxwell, and their still-mysterious money, crime, and influence operation.

The press conference was held outside of a Manhattan mansion where Epstein lived and abused his victims.

https://twitter.com/NBCNewYork/status/1221839167342161923

Climate denial has destroyed the libertarian movement [Boing Boing]

Leading libertarian intellectuals are now disavowing the label (Tyler Cowan says he's now a "State Capacity Libertarian") thanks to the total failure of libertarianism to cope with climate change.

John Quiggin (previously) explores how, at the start of the climate debate, libertarians advocated for "market based" solutions, like tradeable emissions credits, something dubbed "free-market environmentalism." The model had been used successfully to fight acid rain, and it was appealing to libertarians as it "would supply incentives to find the most cost-effective path toward reducing emissions."

Climate activists weren't fond of the idea, favoring instead a limit on pollution itself (this traces a similar arc to the debate on smoking, which started with "sin taxes" on tobacco but really only made progress when these were augmented with absolute prohibitions on smoking in most places and strict curbs on the sale and marketing of tobacco products).

But once emissions credits became a reality, libertarians almost unanimously rejected them, and switched from "free market environmentalism" to straight-up climate denial. As Quiggin says, the problem with tradeable emissions is that it rebuts the core tenet of libertarianism: John Locke's idea that property rights arise spontaneously from nature, rather than being created by governments hoping to achieve specific policy goals.

But more deeply, "Affluent white men who don’t like being told what to do are by far the most important constituency for libertarianism. Such men would consider it a dreadful imposition to have to pay, whether directly or indirectly, for the right to drive a car or use air conditioning."

This created a steady-state in which the climate steadily worsened and libertarians steadily denied that their cities were underwater, on fire, or gripped by pandemics, repeating expensive talking points about solar cycles or crooked scientists who were hoping to dismantle capitalism (IOW: "Reality has a well-known leftist bias").

But Trump disrupted the steady state. When he took office, the libertarian frontrunners abandoned any pretense of commitment to anything except more power and money for people who were monied and powerful, leaving the few standards-bearers for the movement with no way forward. Even as the Cato Institute abandoned its climate denial stance, it still argued that the climate crisis couldn't be averted by state intervention, despite the fact that markets had totally failed to come to grips with it.

Quiggin reckons with the incoherence of markets-only thinking in his masterful 2019 book Economics in Two Lessons, which explores the power, limitations and dangers of using markets to solve our problems in a thoughtful and clear way.

Having abandoned intellectual credibility in the fight to stop climate action, libertarianism has no future as a movement. Trumpism will soon swallow up what’s left of its organizational structure. Individuals have a number of choices available, from Niskanen-style “liberaltarianism” to the fantasy of “going Galt.” But the libertarian moment is well and truly over.

Global warming is the ultimate refutation of Lockean propertarianism. No one can pump greenhouse gases into the atmosphere while leaving “enough and as good” for everyone else. It has taken thirty years, but this undeniable fact has finally killed the propertarian movement in the United States.

Libertarians Can’t Save the Planet [John Quiggin/Jacobin]

Why I won't buy an Ipad: ten years later [Boing Boing]

Ten years ago, Apple released the Ipad. I was in a hotel room in Seattle, jetlagged and awake at 4AM while my wife and daughter slept.

I had been thinking about Apple's impending Ipad release and what a reversal it meant for everything I loved about tech: taking away your right to decide whose code you'd run -- even your right to change the battery! I wrote about my feelings and many people read it. It even rated a mention in Walter Isaacson's biography of Steve Jobs.

A decade later, the Ipad is ten years old and Apple has killed 20 state Right to Repair bills, in part to lock out third parties who might change you batteries for you.

I just reread that piece, and I still stand by it.


Why I won't buy an iPad (and think you shouldn't, either)

I've spent ten years now on Boing Boing, finding cool things that people have done and made and writing about them. Most of the really exciting stuff hasn't come from big corporations with enormous budgets, it's come from experimentalist amateurs. These people were able to make stuff and put it in the public's eye and even sell it without having to submit to the whims of a single company that had declared itself gatekeeper for your phone and other personal technology.

Danny O'Brien does a very good job of explaining why I'm completely uninterested in buying an iPad -- it really feels like the second coming of the CD-ROM "revolution" in which "content" people proclaimed that they were going to remake media by producing expensive (to make and to buy) products. I was a CD-ROM programmer at the start of my tech career, and I felt that excitement, too, and lived through it to see how wrong I was, how open platforms and experimental amateurs would eventually beat out the spendy, slick pros.

I remember the early days of the web -- and the last days of CD ROM -- when there was this mainstream consensus that the web and PCs were too durned geeky and difficult and unpredictable for "my mom" (it's amazing how many tech people have an incredibly low opinion of their mothers). If I had a share of AOL for every time someone told me that the web would die because AOL was so easy and the web was full of garbage, I'd have a lot of AOL shares.

And they wouldn't be worth much.

Incumbents made bad revolutionaries
Relying on incumbents to produce your revolutions is not a good strategy. They're apt to take all the stuff that makes their products great and try to use technology to charge you extra for it, or prohibit it altogether.

I mean, look at that Marvel app (just look at it). I was a comic-book kid, and I'm a comic-book grownup, and the thing that made comics for me was sharing them. If there was ever a medium that relied on kids swapping their purchases around to build an audience, it was comics. And the used market for comics! It was -- and is -- huge, and vital. I can't even count how many times I've gone spelunking in the used comic-bins at a great and musty store to find back issues that I'd missed, or sample new titles on the cheap. (It's part of a multigenerational tradition in my family -- my mom's father used to take her and her sibs down to Dragon Lady Comics on Queen Street in Toronto every weekend to swap their old comics for credit and get new ones).

So what does Marvel do to "enhance" its comics? They take away the right to give, sell or loan your comics. What an improvement. Way to take the joyous, marvellous sharing and bonding experience of comic reading and turn it into a passive, lonely undertaking that isolates, rather than unites. Nice one, Misney.

Infantalizing hardware
Then there's the device itself: clearly there's a lot of thoughtfulness and smarts that went into the design. But there's also a palpable contempt for the owner. I believe -- really believe -- in the stirring words of the Maker Manifesto: if you can't open it, you don't own it. Screws not glue. The original Apple ][+ came with schematics for the circuit boards, and birthed a generation of hardware and software hackers who upended the world for the better. If you wanted your kid to grow up to be a confident, entrepreneurial, and firmly in the camp that believes that you should forever be rearranging the world to make it better, you bought her an Apple ][+.

But with the iPad, it seems like Apple's model customer is that same stupid stereotype of a technophobic, timid, scatterbrained mother as appears in a billion renditions of "that's too complicated for my mom" (listen to the pundits extol the virtues of the iPad and time how long it takes for them to explain that here, finally, is something that isn't too complicated for their poor old mothers).

The model of interaction with the iPad is to be a "consumer," what William Gibson memorably described as "something the size of a baby hippo, the color of a week-old boiled potato, that lives by itself, in the dark, in a double-wide on the outskirts of Topeka. It's covered with eyes and it sweats constantly. The sweat runs into those eyes and makes them sting. It has no mouth... no genitals, and can only express its mute extremes of murderous rage and infantile desire by changing the channels on a universal remote."

The way you improve your iPad isn't to figure out how it works and making it better. The way you improve the iPad is to buy iApps. Buying an iPad for your kids isn't a means of jump-starting the realization that the world is yours to take apart and reassemble; it's a way of telling your offspring that even changing the batteries is something you have to leave to the professionals.

Dale Dougherty's piece on Hypercard and its influence on a generation of young hackers is a must-read on this. I got my start as a Hypercard programmer, and it was Hypercard's gentle and intuitive introduction to the idea of remaking the world that made me consider a career in computers.

Wal-Martization of the software channel
And let's look at the iStore. For a company whose CEO professes a hatred of DRM, Apple sure has made DRM its alpha and omega. Having gotten into business with the two industries that most believe that you shouldn't be able to modify your hardware, load your own software on it, write software for it, override instructions given to it by the mothership (the entertainment industry and the phone companies), Apple has defined its business around these principles. It uses DRM to control what can run on your devices, which means that Apple's customers can't take their "iContent" with them to competing devices, and Apple developers can't sell on their own terms.

The iStore lock-in doesn't make life better for Apple's customers or Apple's developers. As an adult, I want to be able to choose whose stuff I buy and whom I trust to evaluate that stuff. I don't want my universe of apps constrained to the stuff that the Cupertino Politburo decides to allow for its platform. And as a copyright holder and creator, I don't want a single, Wal-Mart-like channel that controls access to my audience and dictates what is and is not acceptable material for me to create. The last time I posted about this, we got a string of apologies for Apple's abusive contractual terms for developers, but the best one was, "Did you think that access to a platform where you can make a fortune would come without strings attached?" I read it in Don Corleone's voice and it sounded just right. Of course I believe in a market where competition can take place without bending my knee to a company that has erected a drawbridge between me and my customers!

Journalism is looking for a daddy figure
I think that the press has been all over the iPad because Apple puts on a good show, and because everyone in journalism-land is looking for a daddy figure who'll promise them that their audience will go back to paying for their stuff. The reason people have stopped paying for a lot of "content" isn't just that they can get it for free, though: it's that they can get lots of competing stuff for free, too. The open platform has allowed for an explosion of new material, some of it rough-hewn, some of it slick as the pros, most of it targetted more narrowly than the old media ever managed. Rupert Murdoch can rattle his saber all he likes about taking his content out of Google, but I say do it, Rupert. We'll miss your fraction of a fraction of a fraction of a percent of the Web so little that we'll hardly notice it, and we'll have no trouble finding material to fill the void.

Just like the gadget press is full of devices that gadget bloggers need (and that no one else cares about), the mainstream press is full of stories that affirm the internal media consensus. Yesterday's empires do something sacred and vital and most of all grown up, and that other adults will eventually come along to move us all away from the kids' playground that is the wild web, with its amateur content and lack of proprietary channels where exclusive deals can be made. We'll move back into the walled gardens that best return shareholder value to the investors who haven't updated their portfolios since before eTrade came online.

But the real economics of iPad publishing tell a different story: even a stellar iPad sales performance isn't going to do much to stanch the bleeding from traditional publishing. Wishful thinking and a nostalgia for the good old days of lockdown won't bring customers back through the door.

Gadgets come and gadgets go
Gadgets come and gadgets go. The iPad you buy today will be e-waste in a year or two (less, if you decide not to pay to have the battery changed for you). The real issue isn't the capabilities of the piece of plastic you unwrap today, but the technical and social infrastructure that accompanies it.

If you want to live in the creative universe where anyone with a cool idea can make it and give it to you to run on your hardware, the iPad isn't for you.

If you want to live in the fair world where you get to keep (or give away) the stuff you buy, the iPad isn't for you.

If you want to write code for a platform where the only thing that determines whether you're going to succeed with it is whether your audience loves it, the iPad isn't for you.

Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway lost $340 million to California couple's massive Ponzi con [Boing Boing]

Jeff Carpoff (49) and Paulette Carpoff (46), owners of DC Solar in California, pleaded guilty to running a Ponzi that bilked investors of $1 billion, including $340 from Warren Buffett’s Berkshire Hathaway Inc, reports AP. The could spend 15 - 30 years in prison.

As part of their plea deal, prosecutors said the husband and wife team from Martinez agreed to forfeit over $120 million in assets, including a fleet of collector cars and vacation homes in the Caribbean, Lake Tahoe and Las Vegas purchased entirely with cash... The Carpoffs used the money from the scheme to buy and invest in more than 150 luxury cars, 32 properties, subscription to a private jet service, a semipro baseball team and a suite at the new Las Vegas Raiders stadium.

Image: DC Solar Facebook page/video screengrab

[via Super Punch]

Gorgeous handmade Tiffany-style R2-D2 table lamp [Boing Boing]

Fight the Dark Side with this Tiffany-style R2-D2 head dome table lamp.

From the artist: The shade has a diameter of 16 inches and sits around 7 inches tall; with the base and harp it stands approx 21″ tall (give or take an inch or so).. Lamp consists of about 500 individual cut glass that i grind into to shape, outlined with copper foil, and soldered together. A brass ring is added to the bottom for stability and finally the lead is finished with a black patina to really make the glass pop.

Via Steampunk Tendencies.

[Image from Master Glasster's Etsy page.]

Fashion arts student stuns the crowd with his latex balloon creations that transform into dresses [Boing Boing]

My jaw literally fell open when I first saw a clip of Fredrik Tjærandsen BA presentation for Central Saint Martins, the London art college. The Norwegian fashion designer and visual artist's graduate collection featured inflatable latex balloons around models' arms, legs, and torsos. Some of the pieces transformed into somewhat more conventional latex dresses as models floated down the runway.

Fittingly, the out-of-this-world collection was accompanied by Mica Levi's gorgeous and haunting soundtrack to Jonathan Glazer's 2014 sci-fi horror film, Under the Skin.

Watch: video of man arrested for aiming laser pointer at aircraft [Boing Boing]

A Florida man was videotaped shining a green laser pointer at a police helicopter and futilely throwing rocks at it before he was apprehended and arrested on multiple charges. According to Fox News, Charlie James Chapman Jr (41) is alleged to have "temporarily blinded one of the pilots."

From the Sheriff's report:

At approximately 7:41 pm on 1/22 deputies responded to US 301/University in reference to a laser being pointed at planes making their approach to land at Sarasota Bradenton Airport. While the MCSO Aviation Unit was attempting to locate the suspect, he also used laser on them. Aviation located the suspect on a forklift at the listed address and directed deputies on the ground to surround the suspect, who was later identified as Charlie James Chapman Jr.

After making contact with Chapman, he grabbed a hammer and made a striking motion towards the deputies. An ECD (Taser) was deployed and took Chapman to the ground. A laser pointer was located in Chapman’s right pants pocket. He was transported to Lakewood Ranch Medical Center, where he was cleared and later transported to the Manatee County Jail.

It was later learned that Chapman shot his laser pointer on a fixed wing plane four times and one time at the MCSO helicopter. One of the pilots of the plane advised that the laser hit him directly in the eyes, causing temporary blindness. The pilot stated he was still felt his eye sight was blurry from the laser.

Chapman is charged with Aggravated assault on an officer, Point laser at pilot w/ injury, Point laser at pilot w/o injury, and Resisting w/o violence

Image: YouTube/Manatee Sheriff

U.S. Plane Goes Down In Afghanistan, Prompting Wave Of Questions, Contradictions [News : NPR]

Afghan service members head toward the site of the plane crash Monday in the eastern Afghan province of Ghazni.

A U.S. official tells NPR that two people died when the aircraft went down in Ghazni province. The official blamed mechanical problems — but the Taliban claim to have shot it down.

(Image credit: Mustafa Andalib/Reuters)

Webcast: Health Implications Of Income Inequality [News : NPR]

Watch as experts on income inequality discuss a recent NPR poll that is notable for capturing the views of the top 1% of earners in America. The webcast will be livestreamed at 12 p.m. ET Monday.

Apple’s iPad changed the tablet game 10 years ago today [The Verge - All Posts]

Apple Announces Launch Of New Tablet Computer Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images

A third category of device between the smartphone and laptop

Continue reading…

Motorola might finally give Samsung some stylus phone competition [The Verge - All Posts]

Image: @evleaks

There’s been a lot of excitement around Motorola’s revived Razr and its folding screen. But a new image from Evan Blass (as reported by Engadget) suggests that a nostalgia play isn’t the only surprise that Motorola has in store for 2020. In the shot, we see a typical-looking Moto phone with a hole-punch selfie camera, but there’s a very surprising accessory next to it: a stylus.

The dual-tone stylus has two buttons near its top and a rounded soft tip. There’s a slight indent at the bottom left of the device, whereas Samsung’s S Pen typically slots into the bottom right of the Galaxy Note. The phone’s front design is quite similar to recent Moto releases.

Beyond that, there’s not much to go on. The date on the phone’s screen reads...

Continue reading…

The latest iPad is back to its lowest price yet today [The Verge - All Posts]

Vjeran Pavic / The Verge

Today is the 10th anniversary of the original iPad being announced. Coincidence or not, the seventh-generation iPad with a 10.2-inch display is back down to its lowest price yet (the same excellent price that we saw during Black Friday and Cyber Monday). The base configuration of its latest model with 32GB of onboard storage costs $249.99 at Amazon and Best Buy. That’s $80 off of the usual price, a discount that hasn’t been beaten yet.

If you want more storage, the 128GB model is $100 off of its normal $429 price. At $329 from Amazon and Best Buy, the price cut effectively makes Apple’s higher-capacity iPad the same price as its 32GB model outside of a sale.

Versions of each tablet that support LTE connectivity are discounted, too. For...

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YouTube is using massive e-sports leagues to take on Twitch in big live-streaming bet [The Verge - All Posts]

Activision Blizzard

Amazon’s Twitch, Microsoft’s Mixer, and Google’s YouTube are all in the middle of individual creator wars, placing million-dollar bets on the biggest gaming streamers in the space. Now, YouTube is trying to corner another market in the space: e-sports.

YouTube announced late on Friday that three different e-sports organizations — the Call of Duty League, the Overwatch League, and competitive Hearthstone — will stream matches exclusively on its platform. All three leagues, which collectively belong to video game publisher Activision Blizzard, primarily streamed on Twitch up until now. Neither YouTube’s head of gaming, Ryan Wyatt, nor Activision Blizzard commented on the specifics of the deal, but Wyatt noted in an interview with Wired t...

Continue reading…

Eve V creators’ next crowd-developed product is a monitor [The Verge - All Posts]

Eve, the Finnish hardware startup that crowdsourced ideas for what turned out to be a pretty great Windows 2-in-1 but then struggled to meet demand, has announced its next product. The Spectrum is a “crowd-developed” monitor that, if the company can deliver, sounds like a compelling option. Of course, as with the Eve V, that is a big if.

The Spectrum is actually three monitors, all of which use 27-inch IPS panels from LG Display with 98-percent P3 gamut coverage along with FreeSync and G-Sync compatibility. The $349 entry-level model is 1440p, 165Hz, and DisplayHDR 400 (450 nits peak brightness), then there are two higher-end DisplayHDR 600 (750 nits peak brightness) models with a choice of 1440p/240Hz ($489) or 4K/144Hz ($589).

While...

Continue reading…

11:00 EST

More Americans Went To the Library Than To the Movies Last Year [Slashdot]

The US film industry may have generated revenues somewhere in the region of $40 billion last year, but it seems Hollywood still has plenty of work to do if it wants to compete with that most hallowed of American institutions: the public library. From a report: According to a recent Gallup poll (the first such survey since 2001), visiting the local library remains by far the most common cultural activity Americans engage in. As reported earlier today by Justin McCarthy: "Visiting the library remains the most common cultural activity Americans engage in, by far. The average 10.5 trips to the library U.S. adults report taking in 2019 exceeds their participation in eight other common leisure activities. Americans attend live music or theatrical events and visit national or historic parks roughly four times a year on average and visit museums and gambling casinos 2.5 times annually. Trips to amusement or theme parks (1.5) and zoos (.9) are the least common activities among this list."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

One of the CIA's waterboarding torturers called himself "The Preacher" and shouted religious nonsense while performing executions [Boing Boing]

More word from the ongoing attempt to bring the people responsible for years of CIA torture to justice: one of the three waterboarding specialists at Guantanamo was called "The Preacher" because while he was drowning suspects to the point of near death, he "would at random times put one hand on the forehead of a detainee, raise the other high in the air, and in a deep Southern drawl say things like, 'Can you feel it, son? Can you feel the spirit moving down my arm, into your body?'"

The sadistic torturer's real name isn't known. He was codenamed NZ7.

Tales of The Preacher's behavior first surfaced in "Enhanced Interrogation," the torture apologia penned by James Mitchell, the rogue psychologist who designed the CIA's torture program (his company was paid $80m for this work, which also included instructions for anal rape, freezing people to death, and shoving hummus and nuts up men's asses).

Mitchell testified again about The Preacher this week during a pre-trial hearing for five of the men charged with planning and abetting the 9/11 attacks.

Mitchell's testimony paints him as a moderate torturer who was locked in internecine struggle with the CIA's in-house "interrogation chief," codenamed NX2 and believed to be Charlie Wise, a notorious torturer who practiced his craft in Nicaragua for the Contras (Wise died in 2003).

Mitchell describes how, on his tours of CIA torture sites, he would express concern that the techniques employed would maim the victims, and was silenced and even effectively incarcerated -- confined to an overseas base with no contact with the outside world. He said he was only released because the "tension" was "damaging morale."

CIA Director Gina Haspel was complicit in both torture and the subsequent coverup. In May, 2018, she was confirmed as Trump's CIA chief. Six Democrat Senators voted to confirm her: Joe Manchin [WV], Heidi Heitkamp [ND], Joe Donnelly [IN], Bill Nelson [FL], Mark Warner [VA] and Jeanne Shahee [NH].

When the senior officials flew in, on 17 August, he waterboarded Abu Zubaydah even though he was quite sure the detainee had no actionable intelligence to surrender. It was done purely as a demonstration for the agency VIPs. And he applied the technique to the maximum extent allowed, pouring water on to a cloth on the prisoner’s face for 20 seconds and then a full 40 seconds. According to a CIA cable describing the event, Abu Zubaydah went into spasm.

The visitors were stunned. “Some of the folks were tearful,” Mitchell said.

“I was tearful, but I cry at dog food commercials,” Mitchell claimed. The psychologist’s eyes did indeed well up on a few occasions during his testimony this week, but the tears came when he was describing what he saw as his personal sacrifices. In contrast, he described waterboarding dispassionately, characterising it as “temporary discomfort”.

Chilling role of 'the Preacher' confirmed at CIA waterboarding hearing in Guantánamo [Julian Borger/The Guardian]

(Image: Crown, modified)

(via JWZ)

A TikTok video shows a clever Airpod trick that lets students "talk" in school without getting in trouble [Boing Boing]

@_leilanaatry this! #foryoupage #airpods #seeya #WhatsYourStuf #officelife #makethisviral

♬ The Box - Roddy Ricch

Trade an Airpod with your friend. Pop it in your ear. Use a text-to-speech program like Google Translate to "talk" to your friend across the room during the class, without ever having to open your mouth.

I don't know if this is legit, but either way, it's brilliant.

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