Category Archives: This is, err… Misc

Citibank Is Working On Its Own Digital Currency, Citicoin

TechCrunch

In a move that should be of no surprise to anyone familiar with the space, Citibank has admitted to running a test platform for digital currencies and is pondering its own solution, CitiCoin.

According to the International Business Times, Citigroup has built its own digital currency based on bitcoin and the blockchain. This, in itself, isn’t very difficult – anyone can create a cryptocurrency in a few seconds with a bit of programming knowledge. But the fact that Citibank, at least in its R&D arm, is looking into the technology is promising.

The IBT quoted Kenneth Moore, head of Citigroup Innovations Lab:

Moore said: “We have up and running three separate systems withinCiti now that actually deployblockchain distributed ledger technologies. They are all within the labs just now so there is no real money passing through these systems yet, they are at a pre-production level to be clear.”We also…

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Uber France Leaders Arrested For Running Illegal Taxi Company

Certainly an interesting development for the “sharing-economy”, where strict regulatory structures for the likes of taxis and hotels are circumvented by legally questionable – albeit often welcome – business models introduced to the market

TechCrunch

Uber France CEO Thibaud Simphal and Uber Europe GM Pierre-Dimitri Gore-Coty were both taken into custody today in Paris. The news was first broken by the AFP. The police started investigating on Uber in November 2014 and raided Uber’s office in Paris in March 2015.

The police charged the two executives with two different charges. First, according to them, Uber is running an illegal taxi company. Uber has been struggling with this charge in many countries, starting with the U.S. In 2010, the company had to changed its original name from UberCab to Uber as taxi companies didn’t want any confusion.

Second, the police said that Uber France is concealing digital documents. It’s hard to tell what the police was looking for when they raided the French office. But apparently, some documents are missing…

The transportation company executives weren’t taken into custody because of the violent protests that…

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Call For Google To Show Its Right To Be Forgotten Workings

TechCrunch’s coverage of the RTBF Transparency Open Letter and Google’s response so far

TechCrunch

A group of Internet scholars and legal academics has called on Google to be more transparent about its decision-making process in regards to its implementation of Europe’s so-called ‘Right to be forgotten‘ ruling.

It’s one year since Europe’s top court handed down a legal ruling that requires search engines to process private individuals’ requests for the delisting inaccurate, outdated or irrelevant data returned by a search result for their name.

In that time, Google has processed around 250,000 individual requests, granting delisting to individual requesters in around 40 per cent of cases.

In making these delisting decisions, Google and other search engines are required to weigh up any public interest in knowing the information. It’s more transparency about how Google is making those value judgements that the group is essentially calling for.

They are focusing on Google specifically because it is by far the dominant search engine in Europe (with a circa 90 per cent share of…

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Internet Privacy Is The Wrong Conversation

A very interesting, perhaps more practical take on the European data privacy debate

TechCrunch

Editor’s note: Rami Essaid is CEO and co-founder of Distil Networks, a bot detection and mitigation company.

On April 2, the Wall Street Journal reported that Facebook is in hot water with government regulators in six European countries over its practice of tracking users’ movements across the web to sell targeted advertising. The kerfuffle illustrates the bind that the world finds itself in over tracking — the collection and sharing of data on users’ browsing habits to help sites offer personalized content such as ads or recommendations.

On one hand, tracking has become a backbone of the Internet’s advertising ecosystem and is understood by most Internet users to be a necessary evil in exchange for a richer, more convenient online experience. (Do people really want to fill out purchasing forms on Amazon.com every time they order a book?)

On the other hand, cookies and other tracking mechanisms continue to raise…

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Google Launches Its Own Wireless Service, Project Fi

TechCrunch

google fi

As rumored for months, Google has just announced plans to offer its own wireless cellular service.

Here’s what we know so far:

  • It’s called “Project Fi”
  • It’s for Nexus 6 owners only, at first.
  • It’s invite only right now. You can sign up for an invite here.
  • It’s built on top of Sprint and T-Mobile’s networks
  • No contracts
  • Subscribers pay $20 for unlimited talk/text, and then pay $10 per gig of data. So a 3GB plan would be $30 on top of that $20, coming out to a total of $50.
  • You only pay for what you use, but in sort of a strange way: if you pay for 3GB of data per month ($30) but only use 1.5GB, you’ll get $15 back at the end of the month.
  • It’s all tied into Google Hangouts, which will allow you to place calls from your number on any Hangouts-enabled…

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FCC Passes Strict Net Neutrality Regulations On 3-2 Vote

A big victory for Net Neutrality proponents in the US. This decision has been a long time coming, but was far from a sure thing, with a number of serious fluctuations in FCC policy and proposals since the landmark rulings in Comcast Corp. v. FCC (2010) and Verizon Communications Inc. v. FCC (2014).

TechCrunch

As expected, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) passed new net neutrality regulations today on a vote of 3-2, with the Commission’s two Democratic appointees joining Chairman Tom Wheeler in voting yes. The Commission’s two Republican-appointed members both voted no.

Notably, the FCC’s plan is now known to have undergone a last-minute revision to remove a potential weakness in its formation, pointed out by Google, that might have allowed for some paid prioritization. If you were curious about Google’s take on net neutrality, that fact should settle the question.

The CEO of Etsy, an online marketplace, spoke before the commission voted to “applaud” the FCC for putting into place “bright line” rules, and “voting to protect the Internet.”

Up first from the commission, Commissioner Mignon Clyburn said in her remarks that the “framers” of America “would be pleased” with the FCC’s plan. The commissioner went on to call today’s vote the FCC’s “third bite…

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The Pirate Bay Is Back After Nearly Two Months Of Downtime

And so it continues…

TechCrunch

One of the Internet’s most targeted, and yet also most hard-to-kill sites is back again following a raid on its servers over seven weeks ago: The Pirate Bay resides once again at its familiar “.se” URL, offering a database that appears to be fairly intact, with torrents mostly in place up to its closure on December 9. The website, a famed destination for those seeking pirated material (but which also seeks simply to provide a portal for sharing of information via bit torrent technology, and ascribes content choice to users), went down after its servers were raided at a data center in Nacka station near Stockholm, Sweden.

This looked like one of the most serious threats yet to The Pirate Bay, which has been in operation since 2003, and which saw its founders found guilty of assisting copy right infringement in Sweden in 2009. A raid in 2006 ordered by…

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NIPL: New IP Lawyers

NIP(p)L(e), ostensibly standing for “New IP Lawyers” is a new network for those involved in the various fields of intellectual property law (and questionable acronyms), in particular for early career researchers and newly qualified lawyers. The initiative was co-founded by Mathilde Pavis and Hasan Kadir Yilmaztekin at the University of Exeter, with Joshua Wabwire as network representative at the University of Oxford, and since has been joined by members from a number of academic institutions around the UK. The mission of the network is to encourage and facilitate discussion of the issues surrounding IP Law both by lawyers and non-lawyers: Continue reading NIPL: New IP Lawyers

Why Sony is way out on a limb with legal threats against Twitter

Gigaom

The ripple effects of the Sony Pictures Entertainment hack continue to spread, and one of the latest — and also arguably the least plausible — is Sony’s attempt to threaten Twitter with legal action if it doesn’t remove tweets that contain content from the company’s hacked emails. Sony may have hired superstar attorney David Boies, who led the Justice Department’s antitrust case against Microsoft in the 1990s, but the consensus in the legal community is that the company’s blustering is all sound and fury, signifying little.

The full extent of Sony’s claims can be read in the letter that Boies sent the company, but in a nutshell the movie studio is asking Twitter to suspend the account of anyone who posts information from the hacked emails, and it specifically mentions the account @bikinirobotarmy — which belongs to rock singer Val Broeksmit, who has a band of the same name —…

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Secondhand ebookstore Tom Kabinet can stay online, Dutch court rules

Gigaom

A Dutch secondhand ebookstore has successfully defended a court case brought about by the country’s publishers’ association, which argues that ebooks cannot be legally resold.

The site, Tom Kabinet, opened shop a few weeks ago, basing its legality on a 2012 ruling by the Court of Justice of the European Union (CJEU) in the case of UsedSoft v Oracle. That case had to do with the resale of licenses for downloadable software, but Tom Kabinet contended that the CJEU’s ruling in favor of resale extends to digital media such as ebooks as well.

The Dutch Publishers Association (NUV) disagreed, pointing to a 2013 ruling by a court in Bielefeld, Germany, which held that the CJEU ruling only applied to software.

On Monday, the Amsterdam district court sided with Tom Kabinet – sort of. The court refused to give the NUV an interim order shutting down the site, saying the implications…

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Natural Philosophy: Falsifiability and Pseudo-science 

Once again, this subject choice is brought to you courtesy of Coursera, this time spurred on by an assignment in the course I’m currently undertaking on Philosophy and The Sciences, given in conjunction with the University of Edinburgh and EIDYN: The Edinburgh Centre for Epistemology, Mind and Normativity. Perhaps one of the key contributions which modern philosophy and philosophical thinking (I use this distinction, as our current understanding of physical sciences can be understood as having evolved from “natural philosophy” in the first place) can make to the physical sciences is a better and more rigorous understanding of the underpinnings of scientific paradigms by way of falsifiability, and the use of such criteria to better differentiate “real” science from pseudo-science. Many consider this differentiation a key factor in the difficulties facing science education, particularly in the US, regarding the inability of students, as well as the population at large, to differentiate between popular pseudo-scientific ideas and accepted scientific theories.[1] Continue reading Natural Philosophy: Falsifiability and Pseudo-science 

The Bay Area gets the European internet exchange model Netflix hopes will spread

Gigaom

The Amsterdam Internet Exchange (AMS-IX) said today that it’s establishing an internet access point in the San Francisco facility of Digital Reality, a collocated data center provider. With the new point of presence (POP), AMS-IX is bringing its European internet exchange model, one that Netflix supports, to the Bay Area.

Last December, [company]Netflix[/company] became the first customer of AMS-IX’s New York facility, which was a big deal because that signaled the rise of the European internet exchange model in the U.S., something Netflix has supported.

In this type of model, the internet exchanges—the places where the networks of ISPs, content providers, telecoms, and others congregate to swap traffic—are owned by all the members that participate; this could possibly account for the reason why European cross-connect prices are way lower than what you see in the U.S. in which data center owners like Equinix or the ISPs can dictate the…

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3D-Printed ‘Bump Key’ Can Open Almost Any Lock

TechCrunch

Bump keys are primitive tools used by locksmiths (and HAXoRZ) to knock open simple locks. Until now, many locks were secure simply because they were too complex to be bumped and, as a result, you had a bit of security by obscurity. That’s all changing.

Created by Jos Weyers and Christian Holler, these keys are designed to knock or bump the pins in a standard lock into place after a few sharp raps with a hammer. The pair discovered how to 3D print a piece of plastic that will fit into the keyhole based on a photo of the hole itself. A few carefully cut notches in the plastic and you’ve got a usable bump key.

The video below shows how it works – and how simple it is to use.

The pair don’t want us to break into secure military installations with their tool. Instead, they want to show…

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The World Of Everything-As-A-Service

TechCrunch

Editor’s note: Tom Blomfield is a Ruby developer and co-founder of GoCardless (YC S11). He was named one of the Top 5 Entrepreneurs under 30 in Europe and blogs at tomblomfield.com.

Over the last few years, it’s become dramatically more simple and capital-efficient to launch and grow Internet businesses. In particular, “X-as-a-Service” providers help startups get off the ground with only a few hundred dollars. Amazon and Rackspace provide on-demand servers that scale to meet hosting requirements, Mailchimp and Sendgrid run high-performance mail servers at very low cost, while Stripe, Braintree and PayPal make payment processing straightforward.

As companies become more comfortable using these outsourced services, more specialized and niche services can flourish, and so the process of launching startups becomes faster and cheaper. It’s become possible to build billion-dollar companies with a handful of engineers. Thanks to these services and tools, we’ve “decoupled the technical…

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Has The Animal-Rights Movement Overlooked Fish?

The Dish

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Biologist Culum Brown suggests so:

Every major commercial agricultural system has some ethical laws, except for fish. Nobody’s ever asked the questions: “What does a fish want? What does a fish need?” Part of the problem comes back to the question of whether fish feel pain. But for the last 30 years, the neurophysiologists have known that they do, and haven’t even argued about it. …

I think, ultimately, the revolution will come. But it’ll be slow, because the implications are huge. For example, I can’t think of a way to possibly catch fish from the open ocean in a massive commercial way to meet demand that would be anyway near our standards for ethics if we think of them like other animals. Currently, you go out, you catch a bunch of fish, you crush most of them to death in a net, you trawl them up from…

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Twitter and Taboos: The Land Where Logic and Objective Discussion Dare Not Tread

I’m sure many of you by now might have heard about the most recent flare-up, a twitter controversy no less, regarding comments made by the ever-controversial Richard Dawkins – comments which, depending on who you ask either a) suggested violent rape or abuse is worse than “milder” versions, or that b) making such an distinction (for example) does not automatically mean that the comment is tacitly endorsing the “less bad” of the two. I’m of the opinion that this was more an example of an unfortunate misunderstanding of the point Dawkins was trying to make rather than him trying to make any particularly controversial statement about either rape or child abuse, but I certainly think that this debate has raised the serious issue of whether certain subjects should be so taboo that they should not be objectively analysed or discussed. Continue reading Twitter and Taboos: The Land Where Logic and Objective Discussion Dare Not Tread

Hardware Is The New Software

TechCrunch

Editor’s note: Min-Liang Tan is co-founder and CEO at Razer.

Nest. GoPro. Beats. Jawbone. Oculus. All hardware companies and each of them accorded multi-billion-dollar valuations either in private investment transactions or acquisitions by some of the largest technology companies on the planet.

When the deals first surfaced, more than a few people were puzzled. Hardware hasn’t exactly been sexy for the past decade or so. Until last year, VC and tech talent have been fawning over software companies, which attracted nearly $11 billion in venture capital and saw 1,523 deals in 2013. And how did consumer electronics makers do with VCs in 2013? A paltry $848 million and 31 deals.

That’s because software, once expensive and complicated to make, has become relatively easy. Increased access to open-source services and the cloud mean that two guys in a garage can inexpensively create…

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SKINHEAD: The Evolution of a Subculture and Society’s View Thereof

Well, June was a quiet month here at The Undisciplined, what with work and me running away from responsibilities for a while to spend some time in Malta. But I’m back now and working on the second installment about Catholicism, Conservatism and Irish Law. Until then, I thought I might fall back to my tactic of posting old essays I wrote from my earlier college days. This one is one of my favourites. The topic of the skinhead subculture and how it can mean very different things to different people was one I found particularly interesting, and thankfully this odd sentiment was shared by my excellent lecturer in Criminology, Ivana Bacik, the Barrister, Senator and Reid Professor of Criminal Law, Criminology and Penology at Trinity College Dublin. You can follow her and her ceaseless work in areas close to her heart such as human rights, equality and in particular the protection of children at her website www.ivanabacik.com or on Twitter @ivanabacik. Anyway, the following is a somewhat updated version of the original paper I wrote sometime around 2008, and it doesn’t seem to have aged all that badly: Continue reading SKINHEAD: The Evolution of a Subculture and Society’s View Thereof

The invasion of Leinster House (via the male jacks)

Research for an article I’m writing on Catholicism and Irish Law. Equal parts tragic and comic.

Come Here To Me!

The Irish Independent, April 1st 1971.

On March 31st 1971, a small protest by activists from the Irish Women’s Liberation Movement grabbed nationwide media attention. Angered by the decision of the Seanad not to allow a reading for Senator Mary Robinson’s Contraceptive Bill which could have led to the legalisation of contraception, fifteen women who were accompanied by children made their way to the gates of Leinster House, forcing their way into the grounds. Shortly after 3pm, the women made their way through the Merrion Street gates, before a few of them snuck into the building through the open window of the male bathrooms!

Among the women who partook in the protest were the journalist Mary Kenny, Sinn Féin secretary Mairin de Burca and Margaret Gaj. Gaj was a fascinating character, born in Glasgow to Irish parents in the year 1919, she was a veteran of the women’s movement and…

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Google Spain, What It Means and What It Doesn’t.

Fergal Crehan makes some interesting points on the Right to Be Forgotten argument here, including my favourite, – the distinction between the right to Freedom of Expression (which to be fair, isn’t really endangered by this ruling, as the original uploader wasn’t forced to remove the content) and the Right to Freedom of Information. “The idea that we have a right to access to all published information about any other person is a new one.”

Fergal Crehan BL

Yesterday’s decision of the Court of Justice of the EU in C-131/12, Google Spain v. Agencia Española de Protección de Datos, has generated quite a lot of media commentary, some of it, in my opinion, a bit overheated. I thought it was worth doing a quick overview of what the decision does, and more importantly does not say, and to consider the implications for the future of your information privacy.

 What’s It About?

In 1998, a Spanish newspaper, La Vanguardia  published a report of a court-ordered foreclosure auction to pay social security debt. In 2009, having paid off his debt, the debtor, Mr Costeja González, discovered that Googling his name led to a link to the report.

Relying on the Data Protection principles that data should, inter alia, be kept up to date, be relevant and not excessive to the purposes for which they are processed, and be…

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