DigitalOutbox Episode 92
In this episode the team discuss Newsbin Blocked, UK Copyright Laws Updated, Google Patent Issues, trouble for Nintendo and Sony handhelds and don’t mess with Duncan Bannatyne
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1:42 – Police charge Scottish Teen over SOCA attack
– UK police have charged an 18-year-old with hacking the Serious Organised Crime Agency’s (Soca) website as part of an ongoing investigation into the infamous LulzSec and Anonymous hacktivist crews.
– Jake Davis, who allegedly used the online nickname Topiary and acted as a spokesman for the groups, will face five computer hacking charges at a hearing at the City of Westminster Magistrates Court on Monday.
– The rap sheet includes a charge related to participating in denial of service attacks that floored Soca’s website in June.
– Davis, who was arrested in the Shetland Islands last week, is the second person to be arrested over attacks on Soca’s website, following the arrest of Ryan Cleary, 19, of Wickford, Essex, last month. A 16-year-old teenager from South London was arrested and questioned by police around the same time as Cleary’s arrest and bailed to return in late August, pending further inquiries.
4:39 – BT Ordered to block links to Newzbin 2
– A High Court judge has ruled that BT must block access to a website which provides links to pirated movies.
Newzbin 2 is a members-only site which aggregates a large amount of the illegally copied material found on Usenet discussion forums.
– The landmark case is the first time that an ISP has been ordered to block access to such a site. It paves the way for other sites to be blocked as part of a major crackdown on piracy.
– In his ruling, Mr Justice Arnold stated: “In my judgment it follows that BT has actual knowledge of other persons using its service to infringe copyright: it knows that the users and operators of Newzbin 2 infringe copyright on a large scale, and in particular infringe the copyrights of the studios in large numbers of their films and television programmes.”
– He continued: “It knows that the users of Newzbin 2 include BT subscribers, and it knows those users use its service to receive infringing copies of copyright works made available to them by Newzbin 2.” BT and the Motion Picture Association (MPA), which brought the case, will be back in court in October to work out how the blocking will work. BT said it will not appeal the ruling.
– Justice Arnold ruled that BT must use its blocking technology CleanFeed – which is currently used to prevent access to websites featuring child sexual abuse – to block Newzbin 2. In an email interview before the verdict, Newzbin 2 threatened to break BT’s filters.
– “We would be appalled if any group were to try to sabotage this technology as it helps to protect the innocent from highly offensive and illegal content,” said a spokesman for BT.
– The Internet Service Providers’ Association has been a fierce critic of web blocking. It said that using blocking technology designed to protect the public from images of child abuse, was inappropriate.
10:46 – UK Proposing changes to Copyright and Website Blocking Rules
– Plans to block websites that host copyright infringing material are to be dumped by the government. Website blocking was one of the key provision contained in the Digital Economy Act. Internet Service Providers had objected to the idea that copyright owners could compel them to cut off some sites.
– Speaking to the BBC, Vince Cable appeared to suggest that the Newzbin2 case had opened up other legal avenues.”We’ve discovered that the drafting of the original laws, which took place a year or so ago, were not tight.
– The government’s decision to drop the DEA’s blocking provision was criticised by UK Music, the body which represents musicians and record labels in the UK. Its chief executive, Fergal Sharkey said: “Who wants to tell the 80% of music businesses that employ fewer than five people, and the thousands of artists who self-finance the production of their own albums, that to enjoy the protection of the law, all they need now is to have millions of pounds and spend years in court to protect their work.”
– Mr Cable also announced a raft of measures intended to update the UK’s copyright laws. The changes are based on the Hargreaves Review which was set up to examine current legislation’s fitness for purpose in the digital age. One of the most significant recommendations that the government plans to implement is the legalisation of “format shifting” – where users rip content from CDs or DVDs for their own personal use.
– “Bringing the laws more up-to-date to have a proper balance which allows consumers and businesses to operate more freely, but at the same time protect genuinely creative artists and penalise pirates.” The business secretary said the economy would benefit by £8bn over the next few years by updating the legislation.
– Millions of people regularly convert movies on DVDs and music on CDs into a format that they can move around more easily, although most do not realise that it is technically illegal. “The review pointed out that if you have a situation where 90% of your population is doing something, then it’s not really a very good law,” said Simon Levine, head of the intellectual property and technology group at DLA Piper.
– Legalising non-commercial copying for private use would bring the UK into line with many other nations and also meet the “reasonable expectations” of consumers, said the government.
– Could also include fair usage and re-use clauses so that fan fiction, remixes etc are now legal and can be published online without threat of takedown
16:21 – Smartphone Watershed in the UK
– for the first time, smartphone sales outstripped sales of regular mobiles in the first half of this year as the enormous demand continues to rise. Just over half of the total 13.6m mobile sales from January to June 2011 were smartphones, according to research by GfK Retail and Technology UK.
– Of the new generation of smartphone users, 60% of teenagers classed themselves as “highly addicted” to their device, compared to 37% of adults.
– “Our research into the use of smartphones, in particular, reveals how quickly people become reliant on new technology – to the point of feeling addicted. As more and more people acquire smartphones, they are becoming an essential tool in peoples’ social lives whether they are out with friends socialising or using Facebook on the move.”
– Facebook remains far and away the most popular website for mobile users, with users spending almost four times the amount of time socialising online than using Google or any other website. Unsurprisingly, multi-tasking teenagers said they were less likely to read books if they owned a smartphone. But they also said that owning a smartphone made them more likely to ditch games consoles like the PS3 and the computer, in favour of their pocket-sized handset.
– The huge boost in smartphone sales has led to a 67% increase in mobile data use as phone users watched videos and sent emails on the go. Mobile operators, such as O2 and Vodafone, have been put under huge strain by the new load. But Thickett said the carriers are coping with the enormous demand.
– Over half (51 per cent) of adults and two thirds (65 per cent) of teenagers say they have used their smartphone while socialising with others, nearly a quarter (23 per cent) of adults and a third (34 per cent) of teenagers have used them during mealtimes and over a fifth (22 per cent) of adult and nearly half (47 per cent) of teenage smartphone users admitted using or answering their handset in the bathroom or toilet.
19:56 – BBC Launches Global iPlayer App
– The BBC is launching an international version of its on-demand video service, the iPlayer, for Apple iPad users.
– Customers who pay a monthly subscription will get access to a range of current and classic programmes. The app will have one feature not available in the UK – the ability to download content and watch offline.
– The project is being run BBC Worldwide– the corporation’s commercial arm – which said that money earned would help supplement licence-fee income. Initially, global iPlayer will be available in 11 European countries: Austria, Belgium, France, Germany, Italy, Luxembourg, The Republic of Ireland, The Netherlands, Portugal, Spain and Switzerland.
– It will cost 6.99 euro per month (£6.14), with the option of an annual subscription priced at 49.99 euro (£44). According to BBC Worldwide, the international product will look and feel similar to the UK iPlayer, but function in a different way.
– Rather than a seven-day catch-up service, it will offer a showcase of BBC shows, old and new. Examples given include Fawlty towers, Only Fools and Horses, Sherlock and Doctor Who.
– It is possible that may provoke questions from viewers in the UK who do not have access to older shows.
21:14 – Amazon App Store – Rotten to the Core
– Amazon’s biggest feature by far, has been their Free App Of The Day promotion. Publicly their terms say that they pay developers 20% of the asking price of an app, even when they give it away free. To both consumers and naive developers alike, this seems like a big chance to make something rare in the Android world: real money. But here’s the dirty secret Amazon don’t want you to know, they don’t pay developers a single cent.
– Did the exposure count for much in the days afterwards? That’s also a big no, the day after saw a blip in sales, followed by things going back to exactly where we started, selling a few apps a day. In fact Amazon decided to rub salt in the wounds a little further by discounting our app to 99 cents for a few days after the free promotion. All we got was about 300 emails a day to answer over the space of a few weeks, that left us tired and burnt out. For all we know most of the people who wanted our application, now have it. To add insult to injury Pocket Casts relies on a server to parse podcast feeds (allowing instant updates on your phone), and all these new users forced us to buy more hardware just to meet demand. Hardware that we are going to have to support indefinitely at our own cost.
– But that’s not our only beef with Amazon:
Lengthy review times of anywhere up to 2 weeks (I’ve lost count of the amount of emails from people asking why our Google Market app is newer)
Amazon gets to set the price of your app to whatever they want, without any input from you, or even the chance to reject their price
Amazon re-writes your description, and in ours they even made up things like ‘add up to 100 podcasts’. No idea where on earth they got that number from
Amazon don’t provide error reports like Google do making it hard to fix errors
They don’t yet support Google’s new multiple APK initiative
Amazon pays far later than Google does, and to date we haven’t received any cheques from them, even though we are listed as being ‘payed’
Much less real-time sales information than Google
Update: (and this one surprised us) you can’t remove apps from their store! You have to ask them for permission via an email. Every other store lets you remove apps from sale.
28:09 – Trojan risk for Android phones
– A mobile application for Google’s Android smartphones can secretly record users’ phone calls and transmit them to malicious hackers,security researchers have found.
Once downloaded by a user, the app – which the researcher has not named, but seems to have a name relating to “System Messages” – surreptitiously stores a recording of the user’s incoming and outgoing calls to the phone’s memory card, according to the New York-based security experts CA Technologies.
– In a blog post unveiling the finding, researcher Dinesh Venkatesan said the so-called “Trojan app” is one of the most invasive they have ever uncovered. He also warned that there is an increasing trend targeting smartphones using Google’s Android software, which allows developers to submit apps with little vetting.
– Google had not returned requests for comment at the time of publication.
– Venkateskan wrote on the researcher’s official blog: “In one of our earlier blogs, we have demonstrated how a Trojan logs all the details of incoming/outgoing calls and call duration in a text file.
– “This Trojan is more advanced as it records the conversation itself in ‘amr’ format [which is optimised for recording speech]. Also it has many other malicious activities that we have seen in many of the earlier malware incidents targeted for Android platform.”
– The app, which was not named by the researchers for security reasons, asks users’ permission to intercept outgoing calls and record audio before it is installed. Once downloaded, all calls the user makes will be logged on the phone’s memory – which can potentially be accessed by the app’s makers. The sound is filed in a folder called shangzhou/callrecord, suggesting that its author is Chinese.
30:39 – Nortel Patent Argument Continues
– Remember the group of tech companies that bought the Nortel patents for $4.5 billion – Microsoft, Apple et all?
– Google is still smarting – In a post just put up on the main Google Blog, Google SVP and Chief Legal Officer David Drummond takes shot after shot at Google’s competitors. By name, he calls out Microsoft, Apple, and Oracle. What’s this all about? What else? Patents.
– “I have worked in the tech sector for over two decades. Microsoft and Apple have always been at each other’s throats, so when they get into bed together you have to start wondering what’s going on,” is the way Drummond kicks off his post. He goes on to lay out what he believes is a “hostile, organized campaign against Android by Microsoft, Oracle, Apple and other companies, waged through bogus patents.”
– While Drummond says that their rival’s “anti-competitive strategy” is driving up the price of patents on the market to insane levels, he believes the law will eventually prevail and “this patent bubble will pop”.
– “In this instance we thought it was important to speak out and make it clear that we’re determined to preserve Android as a competitive choice for consumers, by stopping those who are trying to strangle it,” he notes, going on to say that the Department of Justice is currently looking into if Apple and Microsoft’s acquisition of the Nortel patents was for anti-competitive means.
– “We’re also looking at other ways to reduce the anti-competitive threats against Android by strengthening our own patent portfolio. Unless we act, consumers could face rising costs for Android devices — and fewer choices for their next phone,” is how the post ends.
– Typical Google – painting themselves as the white knight in amongst these big bad companies who are out to destroy, not innovate…yawn. Post also doesn’t mention that Google bid over $4 billion as well.
– A couple of hours later…“Google says we bought Novell patents to keep them from Google. Really? We asked them to bid jointly with us. They said no,” Brad Smith, Microsoft General Counsel tweeted out in response.
– Just in case that wasn’t enough, Frank Shaw, Microsoft Head of Communications, followed up with the real heat-seeker. “Free advice for David Drummond – next time check with Kent Walker before you blog. tweeted, referring to another Google SVP and General Counsel. Attached to that tweet was the picture of an email Walker apparently sent to Smith on October 28, 2010. It reads as follows:
Sorry for the delay in getting back to you — I came down with a 24-hour bug on the way back from San Antonio. After talking with people here, it sounds as though for various reasons a joint bid wouldn’t be advisable for us on this one. But I appreciate your flagging it, and we’re open to discussing other similar opportunities in the future.
I hope the rest of your travels go well, and I look forward to seeing you again soon.
– While it’s only one instance, this really does undercut Google’s entire argument. Google was attempting to set up a pattern of Microsoft teaming up with other Google rivals to damage them. But the first instance listed was actually the result of Google turning Microsoft down, as the email shows. That doesn’t not look good for Google.
– Love this – Google are pussies – http://brianshall.com/content/google-are-pussies
39:44 – Push Pop Press acquired…by Facebook
– Now we’re taking our publishing technology and everything we’ve learned and are setting off to help design the world’s largest book, Facebook.
– Although Facebook isn’t planning to start publishing digital books, the ideas and technology behind Push Pop Press will be integrated with Facebook, giving people even richer ways to share their stories. With millions of people publishing to Facebook each day, we think it’s going to be a great home for Push Pop Press.
– Al Gore’s Our Choice will remain available for purchase, and we’ve decided that our future profits from the book will be donated to The Climate Reality Project. There are no plans to continue publishing new titles or building out our publishing platform that was in private beta. We are incredibly grateful to everyone who has supported and expressed interest in Push Pop Press.
– Both Push Pop Press and Facebook share a passion for improving the way we share and explore ideas and we couldn’t be more excited about what the future holds.
– Good for them, sad for everyone else? Good talent acquire by Facebook but that future of digital publishing that worked so well for Our Choice and promised so much has now gone. However Mike Matas, lead at Push Pop Press, was part of the iPhone UI team at Apple. Rumours of Facebook phone still around and there’s no doubting hat Facebook UI as they move into HTML5 is in need of help.
42:49 – Vita in Europe…next year
– Sony Computer Entertainment CEO Kaz Hirai has today been quoted as saying that the portable console will not be available in the US or Europe until “early next year.” Japan, he hastens to add, is still on track for the “holiday season” release window we’ve been hearing since the PlayStation Vita’s first announcement under the NGP moniker.
– So import if you want it this year looks to be only option
44:22 – Nintendo 3DS Price Drop
– Price to drop by around a third
– Trying to kickstart poor sales
– Additionally, Nintendo Europe plans to offer an exclusive Nintendo 3DS Ambassador Programme to consumers who have purchased the Nintendo 3DS at the original launch price.
– The programme will enable these Nintendo 3DS owners to download ten NES games and ten Game Boy and Game Boy Advance games for free.
– To register for this programme, Nintendo 3DS owners need to connect to the Nintendo eShop before the 12th of August. The free software will then be made available at a later stage.
– Currently, the machine has a recommended retail price of £269.99, which retailers have already eroded to a street price of £199.99 with a game bundled in. But from 12 August, presuming that retailers resist the urge to increase their margins on the 3DS, we can anticipate a new RRP of around £170 – equating to a street price of between £130 and £140.
– Why is it struggling – EA results – http://investor.ea.com/releasedetail.cfm?ReleaseID=594196
– iPad is fastest growing platform and consoles used to account for 80% of sales…now 40%
47:49 – EA launches Sports Season ticket
– $25 or 2000 points a year
– It will grant full access to digital versions of games three days before their retail launch, offer a 20-percent discount on DLC, and enable “free premium web content” and brand you as a paying customer (i.e. “membership recognition”).
– However…”The digitally downloaded game will time out when the game is available at retail and consumers have the option to purchase the same full game on disc at retail.” If we’re reading that correctly, it means you get to download the game three days early, but you still have to go to the store to actually buy it.
– 5 games supported – Madden NFL 12, along with NHL,FIFA, Tiger Woods PGA TOUR golf and NCAA Football
51:05 – Don’t Mess With Duncan Bannatyne
– The Dragons’ Den star Duncan Bannatyne has been forced to delete tweets after offering a £50,000 reward for anyone who broke the arms of a man who used Twitter to threaten his daughter.
– Someone going by the name of Yuri Vasilyev tweeted Bannatyne three days ago, saying: “I’m looking for a £35,000 investment to stop us hurting your Hollie Bannatyne. We will bring hurt and pain into your life. We are watching her. She is very attractive. Want photos?”
– After revealing that police had been informed of the threat, Bannatynetold his 371,653 Twitter followers: “I offer £25,000 reward for the capture of the coward who calls himself @YuriVasilyev_ Double if his arms are broken first.”
– Got lots of criticism on twitter
– The criticism appeared to bring about a change of heart, and Bannatyne deleted the offending tweets and amended his offer to “£30,000 reward for info leading to his arrest”.
However, he kept up the pressure, telling his followers he had tracked the alleged criminal to an internet cafe in Moscow.
– “@YuriVasilyev_ My people are getting closer to you every minute, run and hide you little coward in Moscow,” he tweeted. “Go home to your mum and cry we are closing in on you little boy.”
– Still developing and updating… may have debugging purpose but really it just looks cool.