Thursday, December 29, 2011

Brute-forcing wireless access points made easy

Brute-forcing wireless access points made easy

A design flaw in the WiFi Protected Setup that can allow attackers to easily brute-force their way into wireless network devices has been discovered and made public by Austrian information security student and researcher Stefan Viehböck.

The WiFi Protected Setup is a computing standard devised for making the setting up, configuring and securing of a wireless home network an easier task for users who don't know much about the technology involved, and is included in many currently sold wireless devices, including those by Cisco/Linksys, Netgear, D-Link, Belkin, Buffalo, ZyXEL, Technicolor and TP-Link.

The flaw consist in the fact that when an incorrect 8-digit PIN required to access the device is rejected, additional information returned with the rejection makes it easier to modify following requests in such a way as to make the brute-forcing a lot faster.

To prove his point, he wrote a proof-of-concept brute force tool and turned it against several routers made by different vendors, and it took him an average of two hours to access a WPS PIN-protected network.

Viehböck and US-CERT advise users to deactivate WPS in order to mitigate the flaw, but a better solution would be for vendors to introduce sufficiently long lock-down periods in order to make an attack impractical. Vendors are yet to respond officially to this plea, but will likely have to soon, as
Viehböck promises to make the brute force tool available soon.

For more details about the attack, check out his paper.

Posted via email from Tony Burkhart

Monday, December 26, 2011

Self-healing electronics could work longer and reduce waste | News Bureau | University of Illinois

12/20/2011 | Liz Ahlberg, Physical Sciences Editor | 217-244-1073;

CHAMPAIGN, Ill. — When one tiny circuit within an integrated chip cracks or fails, the whole chip – or even the whole device – is a loss. But what if it could fix itself, and fix itself so fast that the user never knew there was a problem?

additional photo

University of Illinois professors, from left, Nancy Sottos, Scott White and Jeffrey Moore applied their experience in self-healing polymers to electrical systems, developing technology that could extend the longevity of electronic devices and batteries. | Photo by L. Brian Stauffer | View video of researchers

A team of University of Illinois engineers has developed a self-healing system that restores electrical conductivity to a cracked circuit in less time than it takes to blink. Led by aerospace engineering professor Scott White and materials science and engineering professor Nancy Sottos, the researchers published their results in the journal Advanced Materials.

“It simplifies the system,” said chemistry professor Jeffrey Moore, a co-author of the paper. “Rather than having to build in redundancies or to build in a sensory diagnostics system, this material is designed to take care of the problem itself.”

As electronic devices are evolving to perform more sophisticated tasks, manufacturers are packing as much density onto a chip as possible. However, such density compounds reliability problems, such as failure stemming from fluctuating temperature cycles as the device operates or fatigue. A failure at any point in the circuit can shut down the whole device.

“In general there’s not much avenue for manual repair,” Sottos said. “Sometimes you just can’t get to the inside. In a multilayer integrated circuit, there’s no opening it up. Normally you just replace the whole chip. It’s true for a battery too. You can’t pull a battery apart and try to find the source of the failure.”

Most consumer devices are meant to be replaced with some frequency, adding to electronic waste issues, but in many important applications – such as instruments or vehicles for space or military functions – electrical failures cannot be replaced or repaired.

The Illinois team previously developed a system for self-healing polymer materials and decided to adapt their technique for conductive systems. They dispersed tiny microcapsules, as small as 10 microns in diameter, on top of a gold line functioning as a circuit. As a crack propagates, the microcapsules break open and release the liquid metal contained inside. The liquid metal fills in the gap in the circuit, restoring electrical flow.

“What’s really cool about this paper is it’s the first example of taking the microcapsule-based healing approach and applying it to a new function,” White said. “Everything prior to this has been on structural repair. This is on conductivity restoration. It shows the concept translates to other things as well.”

A failure interrupts current for mere microseconds as the liquid metal immediately fills the crack. The researchers demonstrated that 90 percent of their samples healed to 99 percent of original conductivity, even with a small amount of microcapsules.

The self-healing system also has the advantages of being localized and autonomous. Only the microcapsules that a crack intercepts are opened, so repair only takes place at the point of damage. Furthermore, it requires no human intervention or diagnostics, a boon for applications where accessing a break for repair is impossible, such as a battery, or finding the source of a failure is difficult, such as an air- or spacecraft.

“In an aircraft, especially a defense-based aircraft, there are miles and miles of conductive wire,” Sottos said. “You don’t often know where the break occurs. The autonomous part is nice – it knows where it broke, even if we don’t.”

Next, the researchers plan to further refine their system and explore other possibilities for using microcapsules to control conductivity. They are particularly interested in applying the microcapsule-based self-healing system to batteries, improving their safety and longevity.

This research was supported as part of the Center for Electrical Energy Storage, an Energy Frontier Research Center funded by the U.S. Department of Energy, Office of Science. Moore, Sottos and White are also affiliated with the Beckman Institute for Advanced Science and Technology at the U. of I. Co-authors of the paper included postdoctoral researchers Benjamin Blaiszik and Sharlotte Kramer and graduate students Martha Grady and David McIlroy.

Editor's note: To contact Scott White, call 217-333-1077; email
The paper, “Autonomic Restoration of Electrical Conductivity,” is available online or from the U. of I. News Bureau.

Posted via email from Tony Burkhart

Don't Break the Internet - Stanford Law Review #SOPA #PIPA

Two bills now pending in Congress—the PROTECT IP Act of 2011 (Protect IP) in the Senate and the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) in the House—represent the latest legislative attempts to address a serious global problem: large-scale online copyright and trademark infringement. Although the bills differ in certain respects, they share an underlying approach and an enforcement philosophy that pose grave constitutional problems and that could have potentially disastrous consequences for the stability and security of the Internet’s addressing system, for the principle of interconnectivity that has helped drive the Internet’s extraordinary growth, and for free expression.

To begin with, the bills represent an unprecedented, legally sanctioned assault on the Internet’s critical technical infrastructure. Based upon nothing more than an application by a federal prosecutor alleging that a foreign website is “dedicated to infringing activities,” Protect IP authorizes courts to order all U.S. Internet service providers, domain name registries, domain name registrars, and operators of domain name servers—a category that includes hundreds of thousands of small and medium-sized businesses, colleges, universities, nonprofit organizations, and the like—to take steps to prevent the offending site’s domain name from translating to the correct Internet protocol address. These orders can be issued even when the domains in question are located outside of the United States and registered in top-level domains (e.g., .fr, .de, or .jp) whose operators are themselves located outside the United States; indeed, some of the bills’ remedial provisions are directed solely at such domains.

Directing the remedial power of the courts towards the Internet’s core technical infrastructure in this sledgehammer fashion has impact far beyond intellectual property rights enforcement—it threatens the fundamental principle of interconnectivity that is at the very heart of the Internet. The Internet’s Domain Name System (DNS) is a foundational block upon which the Internet has been built and upon which its continued functioning critically depends; it is among a handful of protocols upon which almost every other protocol, and countless Internet applications, rely to operate smoothly. Court-ordered removal or replacement of entries from the series of interlocking databases that reside in domain name servers and domain name registries around the globe undermines the principle of domain name universality—the principle that all domain name servers, wherever they may be located across the network, will return the same answer when queried with respect to the Internet address of any specific domain name. Much Internet communication, and many of the thousands of protocols and applications that together provide the platform for that communication, are premised on this principle.

Mandated court-ordered DNS filtering will also have potentially catastrophic consequences for DNS stability and security. It will subvert efforts currently underway—and strongly supported by the U.S. government—to build more robust security protections into the DNS protocols. In the words of a number of leading technology experts, several of whom have been intimately involved in the creation and continued evolution of the DNS for decades:

Mandated DNS filtering would be minimally effective and would present technical challenges that could frustrate important security initiatives. Additionally, it would promote development of techniques and software that circumvent use of the DNS. These actions would threaten the DNS’s ability to provide universal naming, a primary source of the Internet’s value as a single, unified, global communications network. . . . DNS filtering will be evaded through trivial and often automated changes through easily accessible and installed software plugins. Given this strong potential for evasion, the long-term benefits of using mandated DNS filtering to combat infringement seem modest at best.[1]

Indeed, this approach could actually have an effect directly contrary to what its proponents intend: if large swaths of websites are cut out of the Internet addressing system, those sites—and the users who want to reach them—may well gravitate towards alternative, unregulated domain name addressing systems, making it even harder for governments to exercise their legitimate regulatory role in Internet activities.

The bills take aim not only at the Internet’s core technical infrastructure, but at its economic and commercial infrastructure as well. Credit card companies, banks, and other financial institutions could be ordered to “prevent, prohibit, or suspend” all dealings with the site associated with the domain name. Online advertisers could be ordered to cease providing advertising services to the site associated with the domain name. Search engine providers could be ordered to “remove or disable access to the Internet site associated with the domain name,” and to disable all hypertext links to the site.

These drastic consequences would be imposed against persons and organizations outside of the jurisdiction of the U.S. courts by virtue of the fiction that these prosecutorial actions are proceedings in rem, in which the “defendant” is not the operator of the site but the domain name itself. Both bills suggest that these remedies can be meted out by courts after nothing more than ex parte proceedings—proceedings at which only one side (the prosecutor or even a private plaintiff) need present evidence and the operator of the allegedly infringing site need not be present nor even made aware that the action was pending against his or her “property.”

This not only violates basic principles of due process by depriving persons of property without a fair hearing and a reasonable opportunity to be heard, it also constitutes an unconstitutional abridgement of the freedom of speech protected by the First Amendment. The Supreme Court has made it abundantly clear that governmental action suppressing speech, if taken prior to an adversary proceeding and subsequent judicial determination that the speech in question is unlawful,[2] is a presumptively unconstitutional “prior restraint.” In other words, it is the “most serious and the least tolerable infringement on First Amendment rights,”[3] permissible only in the narrowest range of circumstances. The Constitution requires a court “to make a final determination” that the material in question is unlawful “after an adversary hearing before the material is completely removed from circulation.[4]

The procedures outlined in both bills fail this fundamental constitutional test. Websites can be “completely removed from circulation”—rendered unreachable by, and invisible to, Internet users in the United States and abroad—immediately upon application by the government, without any reasonable opportunity for the owner or operator of the website in question to be heard or to present evidence on his or her own behalf. This falls far short of what the Constitution requires before speech can be eliminated from public circulation.

As serious as these infirmities are, SOPA, the House’s bill, builds upon them, enlarges them, and makes them worse. Under SOPA, IP rights holders can proceed vigilante-style against allegedly offending sites, without any court hearing or any judicial intervention or oversight whatsoever. For example, SOPA establishes a scheme under which an IP rights holder need only notify credit card companies of the facts supporting its “good faith belief” that an identified Internet site is “primarily designed or operated for the purpose of” infringement. The recipients of that notice will then have five days to cease doing business with the specified site by taking “technically feasible and reasonable” steps to prevent it “from completing payment transactions” with customers. And all of this occurs based upon a notice delivered by the rights holder, which no neutral third party has even looked at, let alone adjudicated on the merits. If they get the assistance of a court, IP owners can also prevent other companies from “making available advertisements” to the site, and the government can prevent search engines from pointing to that site.

These bills, and the enforcement philosophy that underlies them, represent a dramatic retreat from this country’s tradition of leadership in supporting the free exchange of information and ideas on the Internet. At a time when many foreign governments have dramatically stepped up their efforts to censor Internet communications, these bills would incorporate into U.S. law a principle more closely associated with those repressive regimes: a right to insist on the removal of content from the global Internet, regardless of where it may have originated or be located, in service of the exigencies of domestic law.

United States law has long allowed Internet intermediaries to focus on empowering communications by and among users, free from the need to monitor, supervise, or play any other gatekeeping or policing role with respect to those communications. Requiring Internet service providers, website operators, search engine providers, credit card companies, banks, Internet advertisers, and others to block access to websites because of their content would constitute a dramatic retreat from that important policy. Laws protecting Internet intermediaries from liability for content on the Internet are responsible for transforming the Internet into the revolutionary communications medium that it is today. They reflect a policy that has not only helped make the United States the world leader in a wide range of Internet-related industries, but that has also enabled the Internet’s uniquely decentralized structure to serve as a global platform for innovation, speech, collaboration, civic engagement, and economic growth. These bills would undermine that leadership and dramatically diminish the Internet’s capability as a communications medium. As Secretary of State Hillary Clinton noted last year:

[T]he new iconic infrastructure of our age is the internet. Instead of division, it stands for connection. But even as networks spread to nations around the globe, virtual walls are cropping up in place of visible walls. . . . Some countries have erected electronic barriers that prevent their people from accessing portions of the world’s networks. They’ve expunged words, names, and phrases from search engine results. They have violated the privacy of citizens who engage in non-violent political speech. . . . With the spread of these restrictive practices, a new information curtain is descending across much of the world.[5]

It would be not just ironic, but tragic, were the United States to join the ranks of these repressive and restrictive regimes, erecting our own “virtual walls” to prevent people from accessing portions of the world’s networks. Passage of these bills will compromise our ability to defend the principle of the single global Internet—the Internet that looks the same to, and allows free and unfettered communication between, users located in Boston, Bucharest, and Buenos Aires, free of locally imposed censorship regimes. As such, it may represent the biggest threat to the Internet in its history.

Copyright and trademark infringement on the Internet is a very real problem, and reasonable proposals to augment the ample array of enforcement powers already at the disposal of IP rights holders and law enforcement officials may serve the public interest. But the power to break the Internet shouldn’t be among them.

Posted via email from Tony Burkhart

Saturday, December 24, 2011

New Kind of Metal in the Earth | Geophysical Laboratory

New Kind of Metal in the Earth

Washington, D.C.,16 December 2011- The crushing pressures and intense temperatures in Earth’s deep interior squeeze atoms and electrons so closely together that they interact very differently. With depth materials change. New experiments and supercomputer computations discovered that iron oxide undergoes a new kind of transition under deep Earth conditions. Iron oxide, FeO, is a component of the second most abundant mineral at Earth’s lower mantle, ferropericlase. The finding, published in an upcoming issue of Physical Review Letters, could alter our understanding of deep Earth dynamics and the behavior of the protective magnetic field, which shields our planet from harmful cosmic rays.  

Ferropericlase contains both magnesium and iron oxide. To imitate the extreme conditions in the lab, the team including coauthor Ronald Cohen of Carnegie’s Geophysical Laboratory, studied the electrical conductivity of iron oxide to pressures and temperatures up to 1.4 million times atmospheric pressure and 4000°F—on par with conditions at the core-mantle boundary. They also used a new computational method that uses only fundamental physics to model the complex many-body interactions among electrons. The theory and experiments both predict a new kind of metallization in FeO.

Compounds typically undergo structural, chemical, electronic, and other changes under these extremes. Contrary to previous thought, the iron oxide went from an insulating (non-electrical conducting) state to become a highly conducting metal at 690,000 atmospheres and 3000°F, but without a change to its structure. Previous studies had assumed that metallization in FeO was associated with a change in its crystal structure. This result means that iron oxide can be both an insulator and a metal depending on temperature and pressure conditions.

“At high temperatures, the atoms in iron oxide crystals are arranged with the same structure as common table salt, NaCl,” explained Cohen. “Just like table salt, FeO at ambient conditions is a good insulator—it does not conduct electricity. Older measurements showed metallization in FeO at high pressures and temperatures, but it was thought that a new crystal structure formed. Our new results show, instead, that FeO metallizes without any change in structure and that combined temperature and pressure are required. Furthermore, our theory shows that the way the electrons behave to make it metallic is different from other materials that become metallic.”

“The results imply that iron oxide is conducting in the whole range of its stability in Earth’s lower mantle.” Cohen continues, “The metallic phase will enhance the electromagnetic interaction between the liquid core and lower mantle. This has implications for Earth’s magnetic field, which is generated in the outer core. It will change the way the magnetic field is propagated to Earth’s surface, because it provides magnetomechanical coupling between the Earth’s mantle and core.”

“The fact that one mineral has properties that differ so completely—depending on its composition and where it is within the Earth—is a major discovery,” concluded Geophysical Laboratory director Russell Hemley. 

FeO is the simplest iron oxide, and thus since most minerals in the Earth contain iron, the prototype for all iron bearing and transition metal bearing minerals.

Using the standard model (called band theory, or density functional theory (DFT)) for understanding materials, FeO would be a metal at ordinary pressure and temperature conditions, but it is a good insulator. It does not conduct electricity. It is known as a prototypical Mott or charge-transfer insulator, which means that it is the correlations between the electrons that make it an insulator. In other words, if the electrons could run about nearly freely, it would be a metal, but the motions of the electrons are correlated, and this essentially localizes them so that each electron tends to stay with a given iron atom for a long time, thus not allowing electrical current to flow. The theoretical calculations of Cohen and Haule showed that at high temperatures and pressures this correlated state breaks down and FeO reverts to behaving more like the standard model.

FeO is the simplest iron oxide, and thus since most minerals in the Earth contain iron, the prototype for all iron bearing and transition metal bearing minerals. Twenty-five years ago, Knittle and Jeanloz observed metallization in FeO under shock conditions. 1 They assumed it was a structural transition to the B2 or B8 structures, and Fei and Mao (1994) suggested that they had seen the B8 (NiAs) structure based on diamond anvil measurements, 2 but recently it was shown that the B8 phase does not form at those high temperatures, but at lower temperatures and high pressures. 3 So the old measurements were a mystery, but it is important for geophysics to know if any major oxides or silicates metallize within Earth’s mantle. Ohta, Cohen and colleagues applied in situ, high temperature resistivity and X-ray studies in the diamond anvil cell, and state-of the-art self-consistent many-body theory to study FeO under high pressures and temperatures. They found a new kind of isostructural insulator to metal transition that agrees with the shock experiments, which has important implications for metallization in transition metal compounds and to geophysics. For example, metallization in the FeO endmember implies two (Mg,Fe)O magnesiowüstite phases in the Earth, rather than one, one being insulating and the other metallic. The proportions of the two phases would depend on the amount of iron and temperature at a given pressure.  Magnesiowüstite is believed the second most common mineral in the deep Earth, so this has implications for electrical and thermal conductivity in the Earth, important for modeling Earth’s magnetic field and dynamics.

1 Knittle, E. & Jeanloz, R. High-pressure metallization of FeO and implications for the earth's core. Geophys. Res. Lett. 13, 1541-1544 (1986).

2 Fei, Y. & Mao, H.-K. In situ determination of the NiAs phase of FeO at high pressure and temperature. Science 266, 1668-1680 (1994).

3 Ozawa, H., Hirose, K., Tateno, S., Sata, N. & Ohishi, Y. Phase transition boundary between B1 and B8 structures of FeO up to 210 GPa. Phys. Earth Planet. Int. 179, 157-163 (2010).

This study has been accepted for publication by the journal Physical Review Letters. A preprint is available at the arxiv.

Posted via email from Tony Burkhart

Facebook is selling you to advertisers — Tech News and Analysis

Posted via email from Tony Burkhart

Friday, December 23, 2011

@OedipusKitteh in a missile attack from Action Movie FX

AP Athlete of Year Voting Snub Shows How Far Mainstream -- Not MMA -- Has to Go @JoeRogan

December 23 2011 Last updated at 11:50 AM ET

AP Athlete of Year Voting Snub Shows How Far Mainstream -- Not MMA -- Has to Go

By Mike Chiappetta
MMA Writer

Earlier this week, The Associated Press, which provides sports news to millions of readers around the world, named its male and female athletes of the year for 2011. Not a single mixed martial artist was named on a single ballot. It's not as if non-traditional, non-stick & ball sports were not represented. Among those who received votes were sprinter Usain Bolt, surfer Kelly Slater and marathon swimmer Diana Nyad.

But not a single voter thought to write Jon Jones' name on his ballot.

Given the consistent dismissal of MMA by the mainstream news establishment, this oversight is hardly a surprise. In the past, we've always shaped such snubs as part of a larger argument about how far MMA has to go. But not this one. Mainstream sports, this time, it's on you.

I'm not arguing that Jones should have won the award. The winner, Green Bay Packers quarterback Aaron Rodgers, had an amazing calendar year. He won the Super Bowl, led his team to a 19-game win streak and has them in position to possibly repeat. Runner-up Justin Verlander of the Detroit Tigers won both the American League Most Valuable Player and Cy Young awards, the first pitcher to do that in 27 years. Third-place went to tennis star Novak Djokovic, who won 10 tournaments -- including three majors -- and finished the year with an exceptional 70-6 record.

Those three are all deserving of the consideration they received, but it's a sign of the blissful ignorance of the AP voters that Jones wasn't considered alongside of other vote-getters like Derek Jeter, Robert Griffin III and Dario Franchitti.

Jones, MMA Fighting's Fighter of the Year, had arguably the best calendar year in MMA history, winning four matches overall, defeating three former UFC champions and becoming the youngest title holder in UFC history. He wasn't exactly invisible doing it, either. He was a guest on The Tonight Show with Jay Leno, Jimmy Kimmel Live, and on the day of his title win, helped thwart a robbery, an act that resulted in major national attention.

If a boxer like Manny Pacquiao or Floyd Mayweather put together a year like that, you better believe that they would have earned votes.

But because Jones fights in a cage instead of a ring, his accomplishments go unappreciated and unrecognized. It's not like this was a small sample size; 212 alleged experts in sports cast ballots for the award.

Some might suggest that awards like this don't matter. After all, in the big picture, it's the opinions of a few. But they are also the same people who help shape the national conversation of sports. As local newspapers continue their slow death spirals, the AP is called upon to provide more and more of the coverage that was once done in-house. That means a homogenized voice spreading a message that is not always indicative of the true, wider picture.

It's the same voice that shut MMA out of the newspapers for far too long. But at least on that front, there is progress. In 2011, AP consistently began to provide papers with UFC event results. It might not be enough, but it's a start.

Judging from their awards balloting, they still have a long way to go. MMA always blames itself for its shortcomings, and points out all the instances in which we're snubbed by the mainstream. It's proof, we say, that there is still much to do in order to truly break through. That's partly true, but we must also hold the sports experts to a higher standard. In any part of life, there's only so long you can disregard something popular before you can be accused of ignorance, and we've long passed that stage. At some point, it's up to the mainstream media to meet us halfway.


Posted via email from Tony Burkhart

RT @joerogan Dear Santa letter written 100 years ago found up a chimney

Joe Rogan (@joerogan)
12/22/11 9:27 PM
Dear Santa letter written 100 years ago found up a chimney…

Posted via email from Tony Burkhart

Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Utah K-12 Schools go Google

Posted by Julia Stiglitz, Google Apps for Education Team Today, we’re thrilled to announce that the Utah State Board of Education has decided to begin offering support for Google Apps for Education to K-12 schools and districts across the state. The decision has the full support of the Utah Technology Coordinators Council (TCC), a group of IT professionals from Utah’s 42 school districts and other organizations that regularly advises the State Office of Education and Utah public schools on technology issues.
“The Utah State Board of Education and I are pleased to have worked out terms with Google to allow our Utah students and teachers to take advantage of Google Apps for Education,” said State Superintendent of Public Instruction Larry K. Shumway. “Google Apps for Education will allow greater collaboration between students, teachers, parents and schools to advance academic achievement.” Under the agreement, over 575,000 students and 25,000 teachers statewide will have access to Google Apps. To support educators transitioning to Google Apps, the Utah Education Network will provide professional development to any school across the state that would like to receive training on Google Apps. In addition, the Southwest Educational Development Center and Washington County School District have offered to provide technical support to schools. Charlie Roberts, the Technology & Media Director for 27,000 students at Washington County School District, estimates that his school district has saved more than $100,000 from switching to Google Apps. Beyond cost savings, teachers across the district are also using Google Apps to interact with students and parents in new way -- relying on Google Calendar to schedule parent teacher conferences, creating Google Forms for student elections, and setting up class websites using Google Sites. Roberts has also added a few labs of Chromebooks. "It is a very exciting prospect because we anticipate little or no increase in overall support even though we will be adding hundreds of devices,” he said. “As students move to the Chromebooks, use of other hardware and client based software will be reduced or eliminated entirely, which will cause a reduction of the necessary support."
Utah joins eight other states with statewide support for Google Apps for Education: Colorado , Iowa , Maryland , Missouri , New York , Oregon , Rhode Island , and Wisconsin . In addition to Washington County, many other districts within Utah are already using Google Apps, including Alpine, Nebo and Davis school districts. To learn more about the agreement, join representatives from Google and the Utah State Board of Education for a webinar on Monday, January 9, at 10:00am PT/11:00am MT.

Posted via email from Tony Burkhart

@cspaceband at Skully's

Monday, December 19, 2011

As Facebook Aims at Millions of Users, Some Are Content to Sit Out #FacebookResister

“I knew all these things about her, but I’d never even talked to her,” said Mr. Balcomb, a pre-med student in Oregon who had some real-life friends in common with the woman. “At that point I thought, maybe this is a little unhealthy.”

As Facebook prepares for a much-anticipated public offering, the company is eager to show off its momentum by building on its huge membership: more than 800 million active users around the world, Facebook says, and roughly 200 million in the United States, or two-thirds of the population.

But the company is running into a roadblock in this country. Some people, even on the younger end of the age spectrum, just refuse to participate, including people who have given it a try.

One of Facebook’s main selling points is that it builds closer ties among friends and colleagues. But some who steer clear of the site say it can have the opposite effect of making them feel more, not less, alienated.

“I wasn’t calling my friends anymore,” said Ashleigh Elser, 24, who is in graduate school in Charlottesville, Va. “I was just seeing their pictures and updates and felt like that was really connecting to them.”

To be sure, the Facebook-free life has its disadvantages in an era when people announce all kinds of major life milestones on the Web. Ms. Elser has missed engagements and pictures of newborn babies. But none of that hurt as much as the gap she said her Facebook account had created between her and her closest friends. So she shut it down.

Many of the holdouts mention concerns about privacy. Those who study social networking say this issue boils down to trust. Amanda Lenhart, who directs research on teenagers, children and families at the Pew Internet and American Life Project, said that people who use Facebook tend to have “a general sense of trust in others and trust in institutions.” She added: “Some people make the decision not to use it because they are afraid of what might happen.”

Ms. Lenhart noted that about 16 percent of Americans don’t have cellphones. “There will always be holdouts,” she said.

Facebook executives say they don’t expect everyone in the country to sign up. Instead they are working on ways to keep current users on the site longer, which gives the company more chances to show them ads. And the company’s biggest growth is now in places like Asia and Latin America, where there might actually be people who have not yet heard of Facebook.

“Our goal is to offer people a meaningful, fun and free way to connect with their friends, and we hope that’s appealing to a broad audience,” said Jonathan Thaw, a Facebook spokesman.

But the figures on growth in this country are stark. The number of Americans who visited Facebook grew 10 percent in the year that ended in October — down from 56 percent growth over the previous year, according to comScore, which tracks Internet traffic.

Ray Valdes, an analyst at Gartner, said this slowdown was not a make-or-break issue ahead of the company’s public offering, which could come in the spring. What does matter, he said, is Facebook’s ability to keep its millions of current users entertained and coming back.

“They’re likely more worried about the novelty factor wearing off,” Mr. Valdes said. “That’s a continual problem that they’re solving, and there are no permanent solutions.”

Erika Gable, 29, who lives in Brooklyn and does public relations for restaurants, never understood the appeal of Facebook in the first place. She says the daily chatter that flows through the site — updates about bad hair days and pictures from dinner — is virtual clutter she doesn’t need in her life.

“If I want to see my fifth cousin’s second baby, I’ll call them,” she said with a laugh.

Ms. Gable is not a Luddite. She has an iPhone and sometimes uses Twitter. But when it comes to creating a profile on the world’s biggest social network, her tolerance reaches its limits.

“I remember having MySpace for a bit and always feeling so weird about seeing other people’s stuff all the time,” she said. “I’m not into it.”

Will Brennan, a 26-year-old Brooklyn resident, said he had “heard too many horror stories” about the privacy pitfalls of Facebook. But he said friends are not always sympathetic to his anti-social-media stance.

“I get asked to sign up at least twice a month,” Mr. Brennan said. “I get harangued for ruining their plans by not being on Facebook.”

And whether there is haranguing involved or not, the rebels say their no-Facebook status tends to be a hot topic of conversation — much as a decision not to own a television might have been in an earlier media era.

“People always raise an eyebrow,” said Chris Munns, 29, who works as a systems administrator in New York. “But my life has gone on just fine without it. I’m not a shut-in. I have friends and quite an enjoyable life in Manhattan, so I can’t say it makes me feel like I’m missing out on life at all.”

But the peer pressure is only going to increase. Susan Etlinger, an analyst at the Altimeter Group, said society was adopting new behaviors and expectations in response to the near-ubiquity of Facebook and other social networks.

“People may start to ask the question that, if you aren’t on social channels, why not? Are you hiding something?” she said. “The norms are shifting.”

This kind of thinking cuts both ways for the Facebook holdouts. Mr. Munns said his dating life had benefited from his lack of an online dossier: “They haven’t had a chance to dig up your entire life on Facebook before you meet.”

But Ms. Gable said such background checks were the one thing she needed Facebook for.

“If I have a crush on a guy, I’ll make my friends look him up for me,” Ms. Gable said. “But that’s as far as it goes.”

This article has been revised to reflect the following correction:

Correction: December 13, 2011

An earlier version of this article misstated the percentage of Americans who do not have cellphones, as estimated by the Pew Internet and American Life Project. It is 16 percent, not 5 percent. Also, a caption incorrectly spelled Erika Gable’s name as Ericka.

Posted via email from Tony Burkhart

Saturday, December 17, 2011

Kazakhstan Disables the Internet , Telecomix Restores


bs0d3 writes "In the face of oil protests on their 20th independence day, Kazakhstan has blocked the internet and disabled cellphone towers in the city of Zhanaozen. As with previous internet blackouts, hactivist group telecomix is putting together free dial-up servers for people blacked out in this region."

Read more of this story at Slashdot.

Sent with Reeder

Posted via email from Tony Burkhart

Why you (yes you) should donate your medical data

GigaOM — Tech News, Analysis and Trends

For all of those in a perpetual snit about personal data privacy, here’s bold proposal: donate your own medical data. And do it now — don’t wait till you’re dead.

Michael Driscoll, CTO of Metamarkets, (see disclosure) made this pitch in his blog earlier this week. Lots of people designate their organs for donation after their demise, but in his blog, Driscoll argues:

…why shouldn’t you be able to give your DNA sequence, your diet, and your disease diagnoses to science while you’re alive?  Unlike your organs, you can donate your data away and yet still keep it.

Talk about the ultimate good use of big data. And HIPAA concerns aside, he thinks many people would go for it, provided it was easy for them to do so and the recipient organization was trustworthy. Devices like Jawbone Up and Fitbit (see disclosure), other body-born sensors, or even cell phones could send the data to construct what “could be the beginning of a valuable data bank,” Driscoll wrote. He attributed the idea to Gil Elbaz, founder and CEO of

Driscoll said sites such as Patientslikeme, which serves more than 122,000 users who share their own health information and technology which enables cell phone sensors to collect and send people’s health data, show what can be done.

There will be the inevitable knee-jerk reaction, but what better use of big data is there than to help existing and future patients with similar conditions? Of course, privacy advocates have a point: Misuse of personal data is dangerous and misuse of personal health data could be worse. Private health data, if it ends up with a potential employer, for example, might cost someone a job. It’s not right, and may not be legal, but it could happen. For that reason, this data would have to be anonymized. For real.

And, unlike past bad practices — the medical industry’s use of Henrietta Lack’s  ”HeLA” cells without her knowledge is an egregious example — this model must mandate informed consent.  (HeLa cells were taken from Lack, a cancer patient in the early 50s and are still in use today. They were termed “immortal cells” by researchers. But neither Lack, who died soon after the cells were harvested, or her children, were ever told that they were taken or that they were used in research.)

The key to medical data donation in the age of big data is full, informed and voluntary consent by people like you and me and ethical, trustworthy and technically-sound decisions about how to store, anonymize, analyze and manipulate data on the back end.

DisclosureMetamarkets and Fitbit are both backed by True Ventures, a venture capital firm that is an investor in the parent company of this blog, Giga Omni Media. Om Malik, founder of Giga Omni Media, is also a venture partner at True.

Photo courtesy of Flickr user KWB57

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Tuesday, December 13, 2011

FUEL TV to air six 2012 UFC events, will become home for 'UFC Prelims' specials Articles
While the broadcast partnership between the UFC and FOX continues to crystalize, FUEL TV executive vice president George Greenberg sees big things for his FOX affiliate.

One-quarter of the cable channel's hours will be allotted to the UFC starting in 2012, and plans to host the recently announced "The Ultimate Fighter: Brazil" are in process. The partnership officially kicks off on the New Year when FUEL hosts a marathon of UFC programming.

"We're very much looking forward to Jan. 1 when the UFC lands on FUEL TV," Greenberg said.

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Posted via email from Tony Burkhart

Monday, December 12, 2011

Louis C.K. can’t stop the pirates — Online Video News

With the release of his latest standup special, Live at the Beacon Theater, comedian Louis C.K. went straight to his core audience with a cheap, easy-to-stream and easy-to-download distribution strategy. He asked interested viewers to pay just $5 via PayPal, and in exchange, they were given access to two streams of the show and two downloads of the show.

(For anyone who’s a fan of Louis C.K.’s TV show or his comedy in general, I highly recommend buying Live at the Beacon Theater now. It’s a full hour of Louie goodness and well worth the $5.)

Importantly, the file comes DRM-free, meaning fans could download the show and share it between computers or transfer it to other devices without using proprietary software or entering any sort of password or authentication to prove they were the ones that paid for it. The idea was to make the special “better than free” — by giving easy access to streams and a DRM-free download, Louis C.K. hoped to combat piracy from good-natured fans who would appreciate not being tied into a proprietary software or streaming method.

Relying on the honor system

Of course, not putting DRM on a file has its disadvantages: Not only is it easier for users to transfer it between devices and watch it at their leisure, but it’s also easier to pirate. The standup comic admitted as much, with a message on his site to those who might want to watch the special:

“To those who might wish to ‘torrent’ this video: look, I don’t really get the whole ‘torrent’ thing. I don’t know enough about it to judge either way. But I’d just like you to consider this: I made this video extremely easy to use against well-informed advice. I was told that it would be easier to torrent the way I made it, but I chose to do it this way anyway, because I want it to be easy for people to watch and enjoy this video in any way they want without ‘corporate’ restrictions.

Please bear in mind that I am not a company or a corporation. I’m just some guy. I paid for the production and posting of this video with my own money. I would like to be able to post more material to the fans in this way, which makes it cheaper for the buyer and more pleasant for me. So, please help me keep this being a good idea. I can’t stop you from torrenting; all I can do is politely ask you to pay your five little dollars, enjoy the video, and let other people find it in the same way.

Louis C.K.

In other words, Louis C.K. released the special on the honor system, hoping that his fans would recognize the value of his work and pay him accordingly.

No honor among thieves

As one might expect, not everyone was ready to hand over $5 for the standup special, and the file quickly found its way onto torrent sites like The Pirate Bay. One version of the file had this overly apologetic note attached from the original uploader [Ed: quoted exactly as posted, complete with errors]:

“yea its the new one yea i kinda feel bad putting it here but people like louis ck gotta realize without torrents and the net he wouldnt be anywhere bc honestly louis i know ur here and i know u mite be mad at me but u gotta realize not everyone has paypal , not everyone has credit cards, some people use net lounges, some have barely money for food, art = comedy should be shared with the mass , and Believe me u can judge the popularity more from the torrent downloads then the paypal sales, also if people like it , its easier to buy on there ipad/ipod or personal/work computers…more buzz = more fales

Hope you understand louie

As of this writing, the most-downloaded version of Live at the Beacon Theater has more than 500 seeds, or users that are hosting the file. That’s a modest amount compared to some Hollywood blockbusters, which can have hundreds or even thousands of seeds for multiple versions of the movie. But it’s still a sizable amount for a lone comic with a niche viewing audience.

Did Louie’s experiment increase or thwart piracy?

So what’s it all mean? It depends who you ask.

I’m sure there will be those who will say that Louis C.K. could have avoided (or at least limited) the impact of piracy on his direct-to-fan experiment by tying some sort of DRM to the file, but I personally doubt it. Just take a look at all the Hollywood fare that makes its way to The Pirate Bay and you can see that making it harder to rip and re-encode does little to thwart committed pirates from uploading files — and more importantly, it does even less to stop others from downloading them once they’re available.

And I’m sure there will be those who say that the pirated version of the special might have actually served as promotion for the paid download. There are a number of commenters in the Pirate Bay thread who say that they downloaded the torrented version, watched a few minutes and decided to pay Louis C.K. to own it.

Finally, there will be those who theorize that regardless of however many people are downloading the torrent right now, there would certainly be more pirating the special if it were released straight to HBO. At least this way, Louis C.K. is benefiting from a direct relationship with consumers who may or may not have cable, as opposed to losing out on potential viewership and potential profits, if someone else were handling distribution and the files ended up on torrent sites anyway.

At the end of the day, it will be difficult to say what effect this experiment had, except that it put Live at the Beacon Theater in the hands of more people who might want to see it than your usual straight-to-HBO special would have. But how many of those got it because they paid for it, and how many avoided paying for it due to a lack of DRM, is still up for debate.

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Posted via email from Tony Burkhart