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Comcast Allegedly Asking Customers to Stop Using Tor

flopsquad Re:Le monopole (415 comments)

That took a lot of GUTs.... *ducks*

2 days ago
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High School Student Builds Gun That Unlocks With Your Fingerprint

flopsquad Re:Great one more fail (582 comments)

Amen. There is a credible argument that our national attitude towards guns should change, and there is a damn near irrefutable argument that our national obsession with incarceration (over mostly nonviolent drug offenses) should change. But pillorying the two in the same breath, as if they were two heads of the same hydra, is incorrect. It may even be the same (type of) people who are overzealous about both, but these are completely separate issues.

2 days ago
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Securing the US Electrical Grid

flopsquad The quicker the better (117 comments)

Though it almost always comes down to $$, there are certainly steps that can and should be taken immediately. A significant grid attack combined with a power plant attack could quickly put the affected metro/region into survivalist panic mode.

Bonus points if the security upgrade process provides a convenient vehicle to modernize for things like solar sell-back ("smart grid"). I've always thought that power should (ideally) be more like decentralized network traffic, able to rout around damage and not dependent on single points of failure. Of course, historically it made zero sense to build a dozen mini-plants in neighborhoods when one big plant 30 miles away was more efficient and palatable. But relatively soon, we're going to be able to coat whole communities in rooftop "power plants", and that's a great thing.

about three weeks ago
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New Nail Polish Alerts Wearers To Date Rape Drugs

flopsquad Great idea... (595 comments)

... but did they have to name it like a bad 70's detective show? What's next, theme song by Isaac Hayes?

about three weeks ago
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What's After Big Data?

flopsquad Re:I read it wrong (87 comments)

In this sense, what's "after big data" is a lovecraftian digital doomhoover wrought by the world's spy agencies.

about three weeks ago
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Posting Soccer Goals On Vine Is Illegal, Say England's Premier League

flopsquad Re:How to avoid sampling? (226 comments)

So what steps should George Harrison have taken to prevent himself from accidentally sampling "He's So Fine" in his own song "My Sweet Lord"?

That's an excellent question. The short answer is that "subconscious copying" is bullshit and Harrison should have won that case.

It's worthwhile to note that this wasn't a sampling case per se, it was copying of the composition (subconsciously, no less), not the sound recording**. Harrison was accused of taking the melody for "My Sweet Lord" from some back recess of his mind where "He's So Fine" was still echoing, unbeknownst to him. I've listened to the songs, and yeah they're similar. Not so similar that I would find infringement absent evidence of actual copying i.e. knowledge, intent, bad faith, etc.

<rant>
Being a musician myself, I can confidently tell you that with music, there is nothing new under the sun. There is a finite number of note combinations ("chords"), a finite number of chord progressions with a reasonable number of steps (say, 6 or less), and, while both are objectively large sets, only a small subset of both would sound pleasing to the human ear. That set is further reduced by tonal equivalence--you get about the same mileage out of Am and Am7, or Cmaj in 1st or 3rd position.

Pretty much any ordering of chords that you could classify as "commercially viable" has been played, many times, in many different styles, by many people. While ultimately the combination of melody (notes) + harmony (chords) + tempo + arrangement + timbre/tone + lyrics is infinitely variable, it is remarkably hard to write a song that is truly original in chords and melody and sounds decent to human beings.

Music, like science, is a whole lot of standing on the shoulders of your predecessors. And what your predecessors have done is exactly what people in your culture are tuned to like. Unless an artist is bursting with uncommonly rare musical genius, the "new" songs she writes are going to be made entirely from the DNA of the music that came before her. There are only so many ways of doing D - C - G - D, but there are thousands of songs based on just that. Should Lynyrd Skynyrd get to sue them all because, hey, Sweet Home Alabama?

So I think it's shitty to charge George Harrison with copying The Chiffons, especially since he didn't know he was doing it (independent creation is a defense to infringement). Yes, RHCP's "Dani California" sounds like Tom Petty's "Last Dance", and yes Lady Gaga's "Born This Way" sounds like Madonna's "Express Yourself"--but pretty much every other song we've ever heard is, like, spooky close to some prior song if we look hard enough.
</rant>

**I'm not sure how anyone could ever "subconsciously" insert the actual audio from another song into their own, so sampling is always a conscious choice to appropriate another's music. This may be one reason why some courts treat sampling with such disdain compared to (logically equivalent) copying of compositions.

about a month ago
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Berlin Bans Car Service Uber

flopsquad Re:Bugger this (341 comments)

This is not a troll. There should be a +1 "Not Actually Trolling"

about a month ago
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Posting Soccer Goals On Vine Is Illegal, Say England's Premier League

flopsquad Re:Laws vary by country. (226 comments)

Agreed. Music is at the far right end of the factual <---> creative scale, and US judges have been especially strident and hard-line about music sampling in particular ("if you're going to sample, get license, period!"). Whereas, footage of a soccer goal is both factual and newsworthy. There may be copyright in the broadcast, but this is not cut from the same cloth as music, poetry, painting, etc. This isn't sampling either; that would be more like "autotune the news." Thus a short goal clip should fall under fair use in the United States.

EU/UK fair use ("fair dealing") law is different than US, in part because they don't have a 1st Amendment. They do allow for news reporting, comment, and criticism. However, across the pond their copyright exceptions (of which fair use is one) tend to be stricter and much more... I guess you'd call it "enumerated," in the sense that they list out acceptable use cases. OTOH, they have a way better "compulsory" (-ish) licensing system in the UK, covering a broader range of materials and uses than the U.S. (which covers mostly song compositions and certain broadcaster licenses).

about a month ago
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Type 225 Words per Minute with a Stenographic Keyboard (Video)

flopsquad [Destination] in summary links (109 comments)

Hey /. devs: could we maybe take the <a>link</a> [website you're linking to] format that's currently in comments, and drop that into summaries? The first link in this article is to a startlingly loud YouTube video, and it would be helpful to know on this and other links where I'm headed beforehand.

Yes, I could've checked the status bar first, but then you could say that about comment links.

about a month ago
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Solid State Drives Break the 50 Cents Per GiB Barrier, OCZ ARC 100 Launched

flopsquad Re:So much SPAM... (183 comments)

Agh spent my last mod point before seeing this! AC you get sharper every day.

about a month ago
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Comcast Drops Spurious Fees When Customer Reveals Recording

flopsquad Re:What about Oregon and Washington? (368 comments)

Great law review article. I gave a "brief" analysis above for why it's probably still OK to tape a call where you're the consumer in a one-party state, calling customer service that happens to be in California (probably applies to other two-party states as well). If you're the business doing the taping, or... if you're trying to tape your ex-husband who lives in Connecticut... all bets are off.

about a month ago
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Comcast Drops Spurious Fees When Customer Reveals Recording

flopsquad Re: Automated notice not necessary here (368 comments)

I would add, from Kearney:

[B]ecause this case does not involve the isolated recording of a personal telephone call by an out-of-state individual in a nonbusiness setting, or the recording of a phone call by an out-of-state business that has a reasonable, individualized basis for believing that a particular caller is engaged in criminal or wrongful conduct, we have no occasion to determine how the comparative impairment analysis would apply in those or other comparable settings.

about a month ago
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Comcast Drops Spurious Fees When Customer Reveals Recording

flopsquad Re: Automated notice not necessary here (368 comments)

Off the bat, IAABNQAL (I am almost but not quite a lawyer, took the bar but no results until Oct.) so take this with as many grains of salt as you feel appropriate. This isn't legal advice, etc etc.

The short answer is, this is pretty much unsettled law, but there is good reason to believe that the knowledge and status of the caller (i.e. business vs individual) would matter. The Wiki article cites Kearney v. Salomon Smith Barney Inc., 39 Cal. 4th 95 (2006) for the proposition that, at least if one caller is in CA, its stricter two-party law still applies to out-of-state callers trying to (legally, in their own jurisdictions) record phone calls with CA residents. However, that is too broad a generalization.

The defendant in that case was Smith Barney, a national brokerage (corporation) with independently sufficient contacts for CA to exercise personal jurisdiction over it anyway ("SSB 'systematically and continually does business' in California, and SSB does not deny that it maintains numerous offices and does extensive business in this state"). SSB was conversing with clients in CA (two-party), but making and receiving calls in GA (one-party), and the CA Supreme Court found that there were compelling reasons not to let a company doing business in CA escape the CA privacy law, much less a business with offices in CA that could conveniently "outsource" its calls to other states (pretty much gutting the law). On a technical point of law, this was also a ruling reversing the trial court's dismissal of plaintiff's case, merely allowing the case to proceed and not addressing many of SSB's factual arguments (like "hey, this isn't what the legislature meant by 'confidential communication'").

However, look at it from the out-of-state consumer perspective and everything changes. Lets make the easy assumption that you don't have any presence, property, or business dealings in the two-party state of CA. First, from a personal jurisdiction standpoint, if someone from an unknown location (oops it's CA, gotcha!) is calling you in your one-party state, you have not established minimum contacts with California because you did not purposefully avail yourself of CA's laws—you didn't contact CA on purpose!

What if you know they're calling from CA? You're hardly directing any activity at CA by answering the phone. What if you're the one making the call and it's an 800 number to a destination unknown? This happens all the time, on the same day I'll make three calls to customer service and get centers in Illinois, Arkansas, and Pennsylvania. Well, you still haven't directed your action at CA if the call winds up there. In all these cases, it would be nigh-impossible for a CA business to make a case against you, because you (almost certainly) didn't establish minimum contacts with California such that the CA courts could exercise its long-arm jurisdiction against you. Even if you had a contract with this company with a CA forum selection clause, it would be a huge stretch; you consented to CA jurisdiction to settle disputes over that contract, you didn't say "I submit to the laws and jurisdiction of California for everything ever."

What if you're a consumer in a one-party state, knowingly calling a number in a two-party state, to discuss business you have with that company? Well, I would wager you're still in the clear, and in fact I record a significant number of customer service calls as I sit in my one-party state, regardless of where the representative is located or what the telephone number is. I do this in order to protect against the abuses in TFA, "forgetful" supervisors, etc., and I do not worry about the wiretapping laws of some distant state. Why? Well, even though they might be able to establish jurisdiction, that is just a threshold requirement.

There is still a choice of law aspect to the legal analysis, and there is a substantial consumer protection interest in my state's law protecting my ability to record conversations evidencing bad faith or abuse by out of state actors. I am a private citizen calling a large, well-funded, legally-savvy commercial entity (imbalance of power). I am not subjecting the (similarly-ill-equipped) private citizens of the two-party state to the business practice of secretly recording them. I don't have an incentive (as a business might) to circumvent the laws of the two-party state, and in fact I may be involuntarily at their mercy if e.g. my local monopoly power company only takes calls in a two-party state. There is no countervailing "privacy expectation" for call center drones in a corporate work environment, making and receiving business-related calls all over the US and often overseas. The nature of the calls is not what most people would call "confidential," and objectively I think an ordinary, reasonable person assumes these calls are being recorded, and can be overheard or monitored at the call center. The business knows where I am, and has a commercial interest in doing business with me where I am (according to the laws of my state), but I almost never know where the business or its call centers are, and I have no interest in reaching into their home state. In other words, tenuous jurisdiction plus overwhelming factors favoring my home state's one-party law means that most of the questions you pose should go in my favor as a one-party caller.

There have been some cases in CA specifically that limit these kinds of interstate actions, including one where a MO (one-party) caller wanted to use the CA law against a CA business, but was denied, as well as some cases saying calls to customer service centers are not covered. My hunch is that there will be a case on this sometime in the near future, in some two-party state where a business gets really shellacked for dishonest BS and sues (maybe an unsympathetic defendant or a corporate client). We shall see.

about a month ago
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Geneticists Decry Book On Race and Evolution

flopsquad Re:Are You Kidding? (541 comments)

That's... spot on AC! From the very little I read (TFS, a few comments above, skimmed the scimag recap), the fourth-hand recounts of this guy's theories sound wrong (and rather 1920's eugenics-y) to me. But then I'm not a geneticist or any sort of biologist, and almost everything in modern science would sound wrong to a neophyte in that field. I move faster and time moves slower?? Really cold helium exhibits "anti-gravity" properties?? We have 10x more bacterial cells than human cells in our bodies???

Assuming this author proposed a testable and falsifiable theory (e.g. "These traits statistically correlate with these genes, and I have controlled for all non-genetic factors like environment, diet, etc"; contra "This race is better because $deity says so"), the proper rebuttal is "We went over your analysis, and you failed to control for X" or "What you're suggesting is a plausible idea but it's wholly unsupported by the data and studies you cite" or "Here's where your use of these statistics is inapt because it means X and not Y like you think."

Now, I didn't read the NYT letter either (making me the quintessential /. poster), but if their response was "We're uncomfortable with this" and not "Here's why your analysis is flawed" then it isn't science. The author does contend that the NYT letter misquotes and mischaracterizes specific portions of his work, and that there's yet to be any actual science refuting his central arguments. So if they want to debunk the guy, Step 1 is to establish exactly what he's arguing. Step 2 is to provide Stuff(TM) that is the product of the Scientific Method to counter his arguments, or logically establish that his arguments do not follow from such Stuff.

about a month ago
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"ExamSoft" Bar Exam Software Fails Law Grads

flopsquad Re:Trust (100 comments)

Correct, every sworn-in attorney is an officer of the court, with heightened ethical obligations. I don't think the subpoena power specifically is reserved for lawyers; if you represent yourself you can still subpoena witnesses.

I know there's some special stuff attorneys get to do by virtue of being officers of the court, but the main thing is actually practice law (represent clients) and keep nearly unassailable confidentiality (atty-client privilege). One of the gotchas is that your duty to the court (as an officer) trumps, so even though you have an utmost duty to keep client confidences, you still can't knowingly allow a client to perpetrate a fraud on the court.

about a month and a half ago
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"ExamSoft" Bar Exam Software Fails Law Grads

flopsquad Re:Trust (100 comments)

I can't speak to those tests or their security procedures, but it may have less to do with the importance of the test itself than the power of the testmaker. Cisco is not an arm of my state's Supreme Court, and they don't have the power to e.g. look through all my civil and criminal records (sealed, juvenile, expunged, all of them), bring me up on perjury charges, or permaban me from practicing my profession if I try to hoodwink them. The state bar is, and they do have those powers.

Not defending ExamSoft, their practices ($100 one time use is BS) or their software (certainly hackable). Just saying the usual /. infosec calculus doesn't really apply. The upsides are marginal, the downsides are huge, and the number of law students who could actually tell you what virtual machines and buffer overflows are is vanishingly small. The tiny percent of aspiring lawyers with the skills and smarts to pull off an undetectable hack are more than capable of studying a few weeks and actually passing the thing.

about a month and a half ago
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"ExamSoft" Bar Exam Software Fails Law Grads

flopsquad Re:Trust (100 comments)

I took the bar exam this week. My experience was that there are lots of restrictions on what you're allowed to bring in with you (in a clear ziplock bag), but they are not cavity searching you for violations, or even really looking at your bag at all. I.e. to a large degree they are trusting us to take the test honestly.

Now of course the nerds among us (you, me, most everyone else here) can think of clever ways someone could conceivably cheat—a tiny scroll in 4pt font rolled up into your pen, rules of law written in uv ink on your shirt sleeves and wearing special glasses, etc etc. But apart from the fact that it's completely unethical (which matters more to lawyers than pretty much every other profession), getting caught will get you banned for life (still with six-digit loan debt) and it wouldn't be all that helpful anyway. There's like a thousand pages of testable material and time is extremely limited. Unless you broke into the NCBE offices and stole the answers, cheating just won't be a very effective strategy.

Same goes for the computer/essay portion. Yes it's your device to which you have root access, a third party can never 100% verify security. Of course a 1337 haXor could trick the ExamSoft program into running on a VM or, hell, even hard solder something into the keyboard circuitry that sent a paragraph worth of text at the press of a key.

But this isn't spycraft, all they need to do is detect something (anything) hinky and then banhammer. Are you willing to bet 3 years of tuition on your certainty that you beat the program and that it logged nothing? And, again, there's another thousand pages of material being tested, in essays where you get 45min and 6500 characters (maybe 1200 words) each. It's a hell of a lot of potential downside and very little upside unless you burgled the bar examiners' offices. In which case, why are you trying to become a lawyer? You could be planning Oceans 15 right now.

about a month and a half ago
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Favorite "Go!" Phrase?

flopsquad Let's kick it. (701 comments)

I'll say "Kick it," and you'll just kick it with a tasty groove, ok? One, two, three, kick it. Kick it. Come on, god DAMMIT. GOD, KYLE. COULD YOU ONE TIME KICK IT, WHAT THE FUCK?

about 2 months ago

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