Unlikely Voter

Conservative views on polls, science, technology, and policy

Archive for the ‘ Technology ’ Category

Copyright is a mess of big government. If we’re ever going to fix it, we need to start eliminating special carveouts for big corporations, and that’s where EFF is getting it all wrong.

You’ll never see me defending the current system for protecting copyrights on radio. The system is designed with the goal of making life as easy as possible for well-connected members of the broadcast oligopoly. You ever wonder why cable companies put up so many music channels? Or how radio stations change formats on a whim? It’s because of the “compulsory license” system.

Under this system, music copyrights are in a government-controlled “market” with complete price controls. Copyright holders have no say, no control, and no freedom in this system. But if you think that’s bad, it actually gets worse than that.

Musical works recorded before 1972 have fewer protections under this system, meaning those copyright holders get less protection than most copyright holders in the country. Those well-connected broadcasters can take full advantage of the “oldies,” with all the benefits accruing to the crony system.

There’s a law that seeks to close this gap, the CLASSICS Act. It basically says that these copyright holders should at least get paid, the way others do. They should get their money for their work. It’s not a great fix. It’s not an overhaul of the system.

EFF is trying to make this about copyright length, but that’s not what this is about at all. There’s no good reason to take just one group of people, these artists, and say that they should be denied the benefits of their works. If Steamboat Willie should stay protected, so too should these classic musical works. That’s fairness, instead of letting broadcasters win at the expense of artists.

I’ll support you if you want to pass an actual bill that would cut copyright down to a more reasonable length, more in line with the Constitutional requirement that copyrights end:

The Congress shall have Power […] To promote the Progress of Science and useful Arts, by securing for limited Times to Authors and Inventors the exclusive Right to their respective Writings and Discoveries

Copyright is fine. But it’s supposed to be for a limited time. It’s true that the Congress has been bought off every single time Steamboat Willie, and therefore Mickey Mouse, has threatened to fall out of copyright. That’s not right, and that’s against the Constitution. But opposing the CLASSICS act won’t fix that.

Musical artists shouldn’t have to keep a special carve-out held against them, in the name of the principle of limited copyright. Let’s stop picking winners and losers here.

It’s all over. The Internet’s dying. They’ve been screaming for a year and a half that in order to Save the Internet, we needed to keep it heavily regulated. Today is the test.

Let me be clear: today is a day that has been a year and a half in the making. In crafting the Restoring Internet Freedom Order, Chairman Ajit Pai and the FCC team have sought to make it an airtight process. They’ve taken their time, held hearings, taken many public comments, dotted every ‘i’ and crossed every ‘t’. Pai does not want this one thrown out of court on a technicality.

So it’s taken about a year and a half since Donald Trump took office, for this key piece of Barack Obama-era regulation to be dismantled fully. But finally, no more will the Internet be subject to price and content controls according to the whims of the FCC.

“What, price and content controls?” you may be asking. “I thought this was about throttling and discrimination.” LOL, no, as the kids say online. The Obama-era regulations were about regulating the Internet the same way we regulate telegraphs and telephones. And yes, kids, Title II of the Communications Act includes both.

In fact, price controls are one of the central elements of Title II (47 USC 201). Except for government. Government is allowed to get free bennies from Title II-regulated carriers, but that’s it (47 USC 210).

Title II would have the government involved in micromanaging the valuation of infrastructure investments in the Internet (47 USC 213).

And get this? Do you want more Internet service? Too bad: Title II bans any building of new lines without regulatory approval (47 USC 214). Imagine government slowing down the Internet from rolling out faster and better to more people!

And yes, content controls are there. Were you a fan of the Communications Decency Act, that tried to regulate obscenity off of the Internet? Well, Title II Reclassification put the Internet under control of 47 USC 223, which bans obscenity over covered carriers. Further, screening of offensive material is part of the law at 47 USC 230.

Title II was a disaster if you want an open and free Internet, innovating for the benefit of all. Today, the day the Internet is freed of Title II, is a good day for everyone who likes an open Internet.

ZTE, a “private” company whose board is controlled by a Chinese state-owned military contractor, wants access to US companies for tech transfers. Trump may allow it, for a one time payment.

The Commerce Department already said enough is enough for ZTE. After illegally violating Iran sanctions, and then refusing to do anything about preventing that from happening again, ZTE was punished. ZTE was banned from buying from the US market for 7 years.

When that punishment happened, China had a fit. Not just ZTE, but the Chinese government. They immediately began applying strong diplomatic pressure to Trump. Some speculate that threats to sink the North Korea deal were included in this, but we have no way of confirming or rejecting that theory right now.

We do know the pressure happened, and we do know that Donald Trump folded like a wet newspaper. He demanded the FTC give in and let ZTE back in the country just days after the punishment was applied. He keeps denying that a secret deal is being made with China, but the reports keep on flying.

The newest claim is that Trump will allow ZTE to continue transferring technology to the Chinese military contractors for a $1.7 billion fine. And I do mean it, that this is all about the Chinese military. the government ultimately controls ZTE in a way that actual free market companies are not controlled by the government.

Real free market companies are controlled by a board elected by shareholders. ZTE’s board is dominated by the state, via representatives of state-owned military-industrial “businesses.” ZTE is a trojan horse, and if Trump makes a deal, it’s America who loses.

We pointed out last week that Apple is selective in standing up to governments. Now they’re trying to distract you from that with a meaningless announcement.

Yes, they will cave to China at will even as they make a show of standing up to the United States government. So the dissidents most in need of support, are the ones they will ignore.

But now they’re going to be transparent about it. Really, is that supposed to help? Deleting any app the Chinese government demands they delete, but they’ll admit it. That’s not the problem, and it won’t help anyone for them to do it.

The Communists aren’t going to be embarrassed out of oppression. They’ve been doing it for decades, and their present Leader shows signs of seeking ever more power for himself. This will do nothing to protect anyone, except protect Apple from folks this announcement will distract.

Don’t be distracted. Apple is putting profit ahead of people, by seeking to make money under the oppressive, murderous, anti-LGBT Chinese regime, even as it postures against the United States government, and those of US states.

Tim Cook must be exposed as the fake he is.

After promising to get tough on Iran, Donald Trump caves as meekly as Barack Obama by waving the white flag to China on ZTE sanctions.

Even if Donald Trump gets out of the Iran deal, what is it going to matter? Any country in the world can funnel technology to Iran through China, and Donald Trump will punk out and give them a pass for it.

ZTE is a Chinese firm tied to their military aerospace and signals intelligence industries. Their board’s senior members are stacked with members of state-run military firms. ZTE defied global Iran sanctions. When they were caught, they refused to take any corrective actions. So the US Government slapped them with 7 years of trade sanctions.

The Chinese ordered Donald Trump to jump, and his answer was “How high?” He is complying with everything they demanded of him. He’s been whipped. Now Chinese firms can defy US sanctions at any time, and the Trump administration is powerless to stop it.

Why is Trump taking orders from the Communists? It’s reasonable to speculate they’re blackmailing him with the leverage of North Korea, but only time will tell if that’s how they have a hold on him.

In the United States, Apple makes a big show of defying the government, by giving citizens tools to assert our right to privacy. In China, Apple is actively collaborating with the government against the people.

Tim Cook’s statements explaining his willingness to oppose the government were strong, to:

The government is asking Apple to hack our own users and undermine decades of security advancements that protect our customers. The same engineers who built strong encryption into the iPhone to protect our users would, ironically, be ordered to weaken those protections and make our users less safe.

But Cook has gotten quiet when it comes to the mass crackdown in China:

Recently, the Chinese Ministry of Industry and Information Technology (MIIT) requested that CallKit functionality be deactivated in all apps available on the China App Store.

During our review, we found that your app currently includes Callkit functionality and has China listed as an available territory in iTunes Connect.

This app cannot be approved with CallKit functionality active in China.

So Apple will comply with any request made by the Chinese government. So much for caring about making the users less safe!

Google has an ability to track your every move, especially if you’re using a phone with Google functionality inside. Should the FTC investigate?

Democrats Ed Markey (Mass.) and Richard Blumenthal (Conn.) are pressing the FTC to look into it. Google has many means of tracking your movements. GPS is only one of them.

It’s not just theoretical, either. Google sells geotargeting information as part of its core businesses, advertising:

You can choose locations such as entire countries, areas within a country like cities or territories, and even a radius around a location, or your Google My Business locations, for your ads to show. AdWords may also suggest related locations that you can choose to target based on your current settings.

The letter by Markey and Blumenthal is exactly right. They say that “Most consumers do not understand the level, granularity, and reach of Google’s data collection,” which is true. Google’s made it their mission to learn everything they can about you by any means necessary.

Should they even be allowed to do that surreptitiously?

Today some well-funded special interests are celebrating, but have no fear: Internet price controls are not coming back.

They didn’t tell you that during the Net Neutrality Red Alert, did they? Net Neutrality is all about content and price controls, not freedom. So it’s a shame that the Senate today attempted to bring it back by invoking the Congressional Review Act to vote to repeal the FCC’s Restoring Internet Freedom Order.

It’s a meaningless vote though. Even though the 51-49 Senate was easy enough for the Democrats to flip with the more left-leaning members of the Republican caucus, the House of Representatives is a different matter.

House votes are far more likely to be party-line votes, and the Republican majority there is far less likely to challenge the Donald Trump administration in an election year. The House will not join the Senate in this vote, and nothing will happen.

I’m not worried. The FCC voted to do the right thing. It’s the law of the land. Internet regulation is being rolled back to the sensible levels of the past, only with greater transparency than ever before. The Restoring Internet Freedom Order was a good idea, and we should keep it.

Mr. Carlson’s Lab is a great little Youtube channel I wanted to share today. His latest video is a restoration of an oscilloscope from the 1930s. Fascinating look at old technology.

Mr. Carlson’s Lab is a fascinating Youtube channel starting a hobbyist from British Columbia. He has an extensive collection of antique electronics and radio broadcasting tools. His videos are in-depth explorations of these tools, restoring them to good working order.

I would encourage people to give him a subscription on Youtube.

Marco Rubio took to Twitter this morning to call the President’s statements on ZTE “crazy,” but the situation is actually worse than he lets on.

Rubio directly quoted Donald Trump’s statement and didn’t hold back:

Yes, it is “crazy” to allow ZTE free access to our technology. But it understates the case to say that ZTE “can be forced to act as a tool Chinese espionage”. The company is rigged to be a tool of espionage.

Take a look at the ZTE Board of Directors. Vice Chairman Jianheng Zhang is tied to CASIC, a state-run military contractor. Vice Chairman Jubao Luan, same. While Chairman Yimin Yin is allowed to have his title, the state military-political apparatus is there to watch him, and make sure ZTE is there to service the state whenever necessary.

Other board members are tied to the government in other ways, such as the People’s Political Consultative Congresses, which are organs for the Communist Party of China to direct policy.

This is the corporation Donald Trump is directing the Commerce Department to support. It really is crazy.

For over 25 years, people have relied on cryptography to protect themselves from more powerful snoops, such as governments. Some panicked tweets have gone out, that have done more to mislead than aid people. Here are the facts.

According to Sebastian Schnitzel, every major means of encrypting email is broken. Pretty Good Privacy (PGP, a cryptography core), GNU Privacy Guard (GPG, an open source clone of PGP), and S/MIME (a protocol for encrypting email) are implicated. He recommends that people stop using encrypted emails.

But there’s more to it than that. The GNU Privacy Guard team was not even notified. That is a clear indicator that PGP and GPG have nothing to do with the security hole in question. So we’re left with S/MIME. And guess what: the real problem is that email clients are loading external websites linked in emails, such as images.

The key line, buried way down in “EFAIL” website:

The EFAIL attacks abuse active content, mostly in the form of HTML images, styles, etc.

So stop using HTML email, and you’re fine. Relax, folks. It’s just bad clients doing bad things. Cryptography is secure. Just stop loading HTML.

The United States withdrew from the Paris agreement, but did you know we were still acting as the global police for the agreement? The Trump administration has ended that.

The United States was going around snooping on what other countries were doing, with respect to Carbon Dioxide emissions, even though we haven’t been a party to the major agreements in that area. We never ratified either treaty, neither Kyoto nor Paris. They were never binding on us, and the Presidents who ‘agreed’ to them never followed process to get there.

Constitutionally we were not participating, and yet NASA was active in them anyway. NASA had set up the Carbon Monitoring System in 2010, and had been operating this entire time as a global carbon cop. They were apparently relying on this too, which is odd:

The move jeopardizes plans to verify the national emission cuts agreed to in the Paris climate accords, says Kelly Sims Gallagher, director of Tufts University’s Center for International Environment and Resource Policy in Medford, Massachusetts. “If you cannot measure emissions reductions, you cannot be confident that countries are adhering to the agreement,” she says. Canceling the CMS “is a grave mistake,” she adds.

But the Donald Trump administration has killed off the Carbon Monitoring System project. We’re going to let the Europeans do it themselves, instead of participating in them crippling their own economies.

No politics, just awe. Alexander Graham Bell recorded his voice for the ages at the Volta Laboratory, and after all these years, we can now hear it again.

At the Volta Laboratory in Washington, D.C., Bell as an inventor decided to compete directly with Thomas Edison’s invention of the phonograph. He wanted to make it better. What he came up with was the graphophone, and protecting that from a patent lawsuit meant gathering evidence.

What we have here is one of the recordings he made as evidence. This is the man’s actual voice, speaking to the ages.

I love this. This is living history in a way we rarely get to experience. This is a recording that is over 130 years old, of a time long ago.

What blows me away is the location as well. Based on the address, 1221 Connecticut Avenue, I believe that’s near Dupont Circle, across the street from the Shake Shack where I get lunch regularly. And this video connects me with what happened there over a century ago.