CyberTech Rambler

May 26, 2010

Please ask Steve Job for permission before publishing emails from him

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 12:47 pm

I agree with Robert Scroble when he says we should respect Steve Job’s privacy, just as we will with everyone else.

It is unfair to Job to have people publishes email conversation with him, even if his reply is a one-liner. He has the expectation and rights to privacy. It is not yours or mine to waive it unilaterally on his behalf. That is just plain wrong.

For the one-liners, may be he is expecting it to be published, may be he wrote it so that it is published. Whatever the case, what’s wrong with asking him first?

May 24, 2010

Three Strike Rules does not work

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 5:21 pm

Normally, when it is people vs Copyright holders on DMCA copyright take down notices, it is always copyright holders that stinks. However, if you read/watch BBC Click’s program segment about an unfortunate user’s experience, this time it is Google/YouTube that stink.  What is surprising is the copyright holders come out and smell of roses as they withdraw their complains which finally got the user’s YouTube account back.

Before I start, in my opinion that user is stupid to not make backup of his videos. The old rule of ‘if something is important, keep multiple copies, and make sure you are in control of the copies’ applies even more in the digital age, cloud storage or not.

At issue here is the ridiculous inflexibility of Google’s three strike rules: It fails to take into account other factors, such as the proportion of non-infringing videos, and the fact that there is no expiry date, both for the offense itself and for reinstatement of the account. No reasonable person will find having 3 infringing videos in a collection of 900+ videos as a deliberate abuse of YouTube’s generosity and should lead to termination of one’s account. Nor is three offenses spread across 10 years a good enough reason for terminating the account.

The Google spokeperson did not exactly comes out smelling reasonable either. While I disagree with the interviewer suggestions that Google should indemnify users if the users claims that the video is not infringing, I do think in the majority of the case, Google should view the video and indemnify users if the video is clearly non-infringing. To refuse to even consider this, as the spokeperson insist on, is morally wrong for YouTube. Moreover, when challenged on the fact that the offenses do not have expiry date, i.e., three offenses in 10 years will still get your account terminated, the answer “There is a reason it is not one-strike” quite frankly did not answer the question.

In my opinion, after three strikes, the users account should be suspended and perhaps deleted, but the users should be given a reasonable timeframe to download all his video clip to take it elsewhere. In other aspect of cloud computing, Google is very good when it comes to allowing users to get their data, for example, from Gmail so why not YouTube?

The morale of the story,  besides keeping backup copies of your favorite videos, is to use multiple accounts for your video. When one goes down, at least you still have the others. Use something like user0001 for year 2000 to 2001, user 0203 for year 2002 to 2003. Another scheme is event-based.

May 21, 2010

Perhaps the right idea, wrong implementation

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 7:27 am

The news in the UK is the government is considering using part of BBC license fee to fund broadband development.

Perhaps the idaea is right, but it is definitely the wrong implementation.

Subsidizing broadband development, especially for rural area access, is a right move. Subsidizing superfast broadband? I am not that sure. Superfast broadband evolve organically in South Korea and Japan because there was demand. While one can increase demand with subsidy, and a subsidy can and should be used to kick start superfast broadband, if eventually superfast broadband is not self-sustaining, there is no point to subsidize it now.

I don’t think BBC’s licensing fee is the right way, even after considering BBC iPlayer’s heavy use in the UK internet scene. I said previously that an idea to use telephone subscription to drive broadband development was misguided, using licensing fee this way is even worse.

I much favour broadband users subsidizing rural area access. However, it is clear that if you think superfast broadband needs to be subsidized, by definition, you cannot get the money from broadband users as the reason for subsidy is  they are not generating enough revenue. So how to subsidize it? I don’t know.

WebM is a potential game changer for web-based multimedia

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 7:10 am

Why? It is a media format that is up-to-date and Google is putting some muscle (mainly in the form of YouTube, but also Chrome Browser) behind it. Not to mention Mozilla and Adobe is backing it. However, its most potent weapon is the fact that it is free.

Will WebM succeed? I hope so, and I think it is important. HTML5 chicken out on defining a must-support video format. Companies, e.g. Microsoft and Apple, are pushing for non-free (both sense) and that is not good for web development particularly and digital multimedia development in general (Imagine having to pay someone just to put video in your document)

History shows that digital development favours free stuff: VoIP (against IBM’s Token Ring), MP3 (against AAC audio). Hopefully, this will be another happy case.

Here is what WebM project resolves:

  1. Steve Job is said to had hinted that a lawsuit is heading for Theora/Oggs  (based on earlier reincarnation of VP8, the main WebM protocol). Patents uncertainty was the main reason most browser did not want to support it. This did not go away with WebM, but Google has the muscle to make them think twice.
  2. The argument about Theora/Oggs being ‘old-technology’ is resolved. Sure, there are problems and flaws. For example, see this article. As ArsTechnica points out, no show stopper. Badly written specs? It worked inside On2 (before Google’s acquisition) for a long time now. Moreover, you can argue a lot of open source projects started this way, for example, the Eclipse Project. It might not be as good as H.264, but it is early days and it is possible that like MP3 vs AAC, the said-to-be-weaker format wins.

What still remains to be seen is whether IE and Safari’s refusal to implement VP8 will means H.264 becomes the standard, or they will be forced to change their mind.

Google did put in a nuclear clause:

“If You or your agent  … alleging that this implementation of VP8 or any code incorporated within … constitutes direct or contributory patent infringement, or inducement of patent infringement, then any rights granted to You under this License for this implementation of VP8 shall terminate as of the date such litigation is filed.”

This is ingenious. At the minimum, it buys time for it to flourish. A lot of companies will not want to sue for the fear of not being able to implement a potentially important technology for the web.

May 17, 2010

More details about Gizmodo iPhone raid warrant

Filed under: Uncategorized — ctrambler @ 5:39 pm

The judge unsealed the warrant and Wired has it in full text. That unsealed documents filled in the blanks that were left unanswered.

First, biggest loser is the girl that share the house with the person who found the iPhone. She is being outed as the informant. To tell the truth, what she did is benign and reveal nothing that you would not expect a cooperating witness to do. She did not reveal anything big or tipped the favour to Apple’s investigator. Finally, she did have a legit fear of being implicated in any theft of the device because the finder used her computer to try to get the iPhone working. Or, is the fear of being implicated a ‘cover story’? I find it difficult to believe she did not panic after seeing the Gizmodo article and have the calmness of mind to call Apple the same day the article appears.

Contrast her behaviour with that of the other two who handled the iPhones. What the other two did was classic. Donating the computer and fly-tipping memory cards. Those two definitely did not have the advise of a lawyer. Their reaction is what we typically expects of someone in fear of something. Unlike what the detective claim  that throwing those stuff away is a demonstration of ‘conscious of guilt’, I believe a reasonable jury will not weigh that against him when deciding whether he is guilty or not coz that is what you and I will do when we think we are in trouble, regardless of whether the trouble we are in is real or not. [However, once  the jury decided he is guilty, it will weigh against them on sentencing.]

It is good news all around for the founder and Gizmodo. The witness confirmed their story that the founder has tried to return the phone. The question is whether they made a good faith attempt to return the phone. Frankly, I won’t expect the warrant to say that Apple did receive communications from the founder and decided to ignore it. Do you?

For Gizmodo, I think their action, as described by the witness and the warrant, means it falls under Journalist Protection Law. It is clear that their handling of the iPhone is part of their official duty as a journalist and not in their private personal capacity. To a lot of people, including me, it is unethical to handle stolen property in search of a headline which has no public importance or significance, but unethical does not mean breaking the law.

Gizmodo’s Lam request for an official acknowledgment before returning the iPhone after the breaking of the story to me is just publisher wants to get their two cents. It is no different from asking for postage to be paid for the return of the iPhone. Steve Job might want it handled privately, but his hand is forced. An argument can also be made that Lam wanted a more official way of communication to confirm he is returning the iPhone to its rightful owner.

Back to the raid on Jason Chen’s house. Gizmodo and Chen would had been tipped off and are expecting a raid. The officer do have sufficient ground for a raid. He would also be expecting that Gizmodo and Chen would had lawyers backing them up. Unlike the other two finders, Chen and Gizmodo are unlikely to destroy any evidence, at least not in the same stupid way. Nonetheless he has to cover all his basis. Barring the Journalist Protection Law, he is acting lawfully. Even with it, the decision to seize , then decide whether the protection law applies can be made in the interest of timeliness.

Loser? Apple again. If the engineer misplaced the phone, it has no recourse to losing its trade secret. It has to prove theft. Even then, the genie is out of the bottle. Steve Job’s intervention? Only tech journalist trying to boast headline will make anything out of it. Did Apple pressure the law enforcer to conduct the raid? We won’t

The affidavit was carefully written to suggest lost might be one probably cause of the finder and Gizmodo obtaining the phone. I am sure that is deliberate and is not just the detective trying to cover all basis.

Here is what me, as a lay man see:

  1. Did the finder made a reasonable effort to return the iPhone to Apple? I cannot answer it. Here is my view: If it tried once, even if it is only once, then to a layman like me it satisfied the letter of the law in finding the rightful owner. If it tries more than once then it is beyond reasonable doubt. This is regardless of what Apple’s preferred communication channel is, or whether Apple choose to respond or not.
  2. If Apple choose not to respond, then the ownership of the iPhone passed to the finder. This is crucial, as this means the finder is free to do whatever it wants, including selling it to Gizmodo
  3. We know the finder ‘sold’ the iPhone. However, legally, Gizmodo is unlikely to have ‘bought’ the iPhone. Furthermore, despite the witness saying that the finder try to sell the iPhone, the lawyer can make the case that he just use it colloquially and did not meant to sell it literally, but the story around his finding of the iPhone. [And before I get any spam, we know he SOLD it]
  4. Gizmodo had covered it basis as much as it could. It is a risky story as far as legal procedure/prospect are concern, but no pain, no gain. Ethnically one will argue it should had avoided it because of the unsure origin of the iPhone (Ok if it is a found property and Apple tried to bury it by not acknowledging the find. Not OK if the finder stole it)
  5. If Apple cannot make a case that the phone is stolen, then the losses due to Trade Secret is their fault and they will have no recourse. That is how trade secret works.
  6. As for the iPhone being tampered with: We don’t know who tampered with it. Gizmodo will blame the finder, the finder will blame Gizmodo. If you cannot point the finger conclusively at one of them, then it is a loss cause. [I am sure someone had dusted the internal for finger prints by now]. Then there is this tenuous argument that the phone was dismembered in an attempt to find the rightful owner.

This is a case that has a lot of legal, business and ethical angle and will be interesting to watch.

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