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Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream
Everything about Broadband Policy, Network Infrastructure, Voice, Video and Data Services, Devices and Applications for Managing our Planet
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It's Time to Take Mesh Networks Seriously (And Not Just for the Reasons You Think) | Wired Opinion | Wired.com

It's Time to Take Mesh Networks Seriously (And Not Just for the Reasons You Think) | Wired Opinion | Wired.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The internet is weak, yet we keep ignoring this fact. So we see the same thing over and over again, whether it’s because of natural disasters like hurricanes Sandy and Katrina, wars like Syria and Bosnia, deliberate attempts by the government to shut down the internet (most recently in Egypt and Iran), or NSA surveillance.


After Typhoon Haiyan hit the Philippines last month, several towns were cut off from humanitarian relief because delivering that aid depends on having a reliable communication network. In a country where over 90 percent of the population has access to mobile phones, the implementation of an emergency “mesh” network could have saved lives.


Compared to the “normal” internet — which is based on a few centralized access points or internet service providers (ISPs) — mesh networks have many benefits, from architectural to political. Yet they haven’t really taken off, even though they have been around for some time. I believe it’s time to reconsider their potential, and make mesh networking a reality. Not just because of its obvious benefits, but also because it provides an internet-native model for building community and governance.


But first, the basics: An ad hoc network infrastructure that can be set up by anyone, mesh networks wirelessly connect computers and devices directly to each other without passing through any central authority or centralized organization (like a phone company or an ISP). They can automatically reconfigure themselves according to the availability and proximity of bandwidth, storage, and so on; this is what makes them resistant to disaster and other interference. Dynamic connections between nodes enable packets to use multiple routes to travel through the network, which makes these networks more robust.


Compared to more centralized network architectures, the only way to shut down a mesh network is to shut down every single node in the network.


That’s the vital feature, and what makes it stronger in some ways than the regular internet.


But mesh networks aren’t just for political upheavals or natural disasters. Many have been installed as part of humanitarian programs, aimed at helping poor neighborhoods and underserved areas. For people who can’t afford to pay for an internet connection, or don’t have access to a proper communications infrastructure, mesh networks provide the basic infrastructure for connectivity.


Not only do mesh networks represent a cheap and efficient means for people to connect and communicate to a broader community, but they provide us with a choice for what kind of internet we want to have.


For these concerned about the erosion of online privacy and anonymity, mesh networking represents a way to preserve the confidentiality of online communications. Given the lack of a central regulating authority, it’s extremely difficult for anyone to assess the real identity of users connected to these networks. And because mesh networks are generally invisible to the internet, the only way to monitor mesh traffic is to be locally and directly connected to them.


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Shipments of Cellular Communications Nodes for Smart Grids Will Surpass 16 Million Annually by 2022 | USOnlineNewsDigest.com

Shipments of Cellular Communications Nodes for Smart Grids Will Surpass 16 Million Annually by 2022 | USOnlineNewsDigest.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Long accustomed to using private networks, such as power line communications and radio frequency mesh, for transmitting power grid data, utilities are increasingly turning to public cellular networks for smart grid communications. While European utilities have been using cellular for some time, North American firms have only recently begun to commit to public networks for critical smart grid applications. Cellular networks are also expected to play a significant role in supporting large-scale smart meter rollouts across the Asia Pacific region.


According to a new report from Navigant Research, worldwide shipments of public cellular communications nodes for smart grid applications will grow from fewer than 3 million annually in 2013 to 16.3 million in 2020.

“Smart grid investments are dependent upon reliable, ubiquitous communications and not all utilities have the resources to build and manage these networks themselves,” says Richelle Elberg, senior research analyst with Navigant Research. “Public cellular networks are beginning to make headway in the utility environment thanks to a convergence of factors, including dramatically reduced pricing for cellular machine-to-machine connectivity, ubiquitous network coverage, and significantly improved reliability and security.”

However, utilities face a number of challenges in shifting to cellular, according to the report. For example, cellular carriers typically update their technology every 3 to 5 years, while utilities operate on a 10- to15-year lifecycle. In addition, particularly in North America, utilities are incentivized to make capital investments, which can be recovered in rate cases, versus increasing their operating expenses. Public cellular service adds to a utility’s operating expense line, which may lower profitability.

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Cleveland Foundation's Greater University Circle Initiative brings people, institutions together | Plain Dealer

Cleveland Foundation's Greater University Circle Initiative brings people, institutions together | Plain Dealer | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

University Circle, with its world-renowned arts, education and medical institutions, thoroughly impressed Cleveland Foundation President and CEO Ronald B. Richard when he moved here a decade ago. But Richard felt like something was lacking. Namely, people from surrounding neighborhoods.


Richard observed that public school students living nearby had never been to the art museum. What's more, long-time residents could see the campuses of major health care employers from their backyards, but believed jobs at those institutions were beyond their reach. He decided something needed to be done.


"I personally visited every one of those institutions and said, 'Do you know that the people in the surrounding five low-income neighborhoods feel that the circle is off limits to them?" he remembers. "That they're not wanted here? That there is an invisible wall around the circle? Would you do me a favor and think of yourself as an enlarged circle to embrace and welcome your neighbors?"


The heads of all of the institutions agreed that the invisible wall needed to come down, and in 2005 the Cleveland Foundation launched the Greater University Circle Initiative, "greater" being the operative word.


The initiative brings together the foundation and the circle's "anchor" institutions – Cleveland Clinic, University Hospitals, Case Western Reserve University and others. GUCI partners also include the city of Cleveland, the Regional Transit Authority, Kelvin and Eleanour Smith Foundation, Kent Smith Charitable Trust, Cleveland Neighborhood Progress and University Circle Incorporated.


Communities include the surrounding areas of Fairfax, Wade Park-Glenville, Hough, Little Italy and the Buckeye-Shaker area.


One facet of the GUCI is Neighborhood Connections, which was launched by the Cleveland Foundation in 2003 and later integrated with the Cleveland Foundation's GUCI launched in 2005. Neighborhood Connections aims to empower people in these neighborhoods and encourage them to become more engaged with one another and University Circle. The group extends small grants ($500 to $5,000, provided by the Cleveland Foundation) that fund citizen-led projects, events and activities, such as starting a small business, establishing a neighborhood garden, doing home repairs or passing on a skill. Since 2003, Neighborhood Connections has made more than 1,800 grants totaling $6.5 million.


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Iowa: Howard County could pilot broadband initiative | Mason City Globe Gazette

Iowa: Howard County could pilot broadband initiative | Mason City Globe Gazette | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

A broadband Internet initiative continues to pick up speed in Howard County, which could serve as a pilot county for the initiative, according to Superintendent John Carver of the Howard-Winneshiek Community School District.


Carver serves as co-chair of the STEM Advisory Council’s Broadband Committee, alongside Robert von Wolffradt, Chief Information Officer for the State of Iowa.


The superintendent and co-chair informed HCED officials the governor-appointed committee was tasked with developing recommendations for lawmakers to consider during the state’s upcoming legislative session, scheduled to convene next month.


Initial action recommendations were publicly released on Dec. 1. The full report is accessible through the Connect Iowa organizational website at http://www.connectiowa.org.


“There are six proposals that went to the governor,” Carver said. “Among the proposals included incentives to providers to go into unserved and underserved areas.”


In a recent residential survey conducted through Connect Iowa, the organization found approximately 680,000 Iowa residents – or 29 percent of adults statewide – still do not subscribe to broadband services. 


“Many communities in Iowa are not using Internet, and they’re not leveraging broadband to the fullest,” Carver said. “They’re content with cell phones and maybe a Facebook page, but there’s so much more that can be done with broadband for business, so that’s another one of the incentives.”


A third incentive, according to Carver, involves an effort to educate individuals and business owners throughout the state about the importance of adopting high-speed Internet in order to increase digital footprints on a global scale.


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Juniper vs. Palo Alto Networks: Firewall court battle set to begin | NetworkWorld.com

Juniper vs. Palo Alto Networks: Firewall court battle set to begin | NetworkWorld.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Call it the fist fight over firewalls for 2014. Juniper Networks is going for a knock-out against rival Palo Alto Networks in a patent-dispute lawsuit related to next-generation firewalls that's set to go to trial in Delaware in February. And Palo Alto wants to take out Juniper in its own separate patent lawsuit.


Juniper alleges that Palo Alto’s firewalls are based on intellectual property that Juniper gained in its $4 billion acquisition of NetScreen in 2004, and that this technology was developed by Nir Zuk, the former CTO at NetScreen, and Yuming Mao, a former engineering architect there. Later, Zuk and Mao went off to found Palo Alto, a maker of application-aware, or next-generation, firewalls. Juniper is seeking an injunction to bar firewall sales by Palo Alto and possibly reap monetary damages as well.


Palo Alto declined to talk about the lawsuit, and sources at Juniper spoke only on background. But the Juniper lawsuit, which commenced as legal filings two years ago and is now expected to go to a jury trial in Wilmington, Del., speaks for itself.


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Former NSA Chief Claims Snowden Has 'Infinitely Weakened' Agency; Ignores Questions About Legality Of Backdoors And Exploits | Techdirt.com

Former NSA Chief Claims Snowden Has 'Infinitely Weakened' Agency; Ignores Questions About Legality Of Backdoors And Exploits | Techdirt.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Former NSA head Michael Hayden continues to defend the agency from criticism even though he really doesn't have any stake in the outcome. Maybe an agency man is always an agency man, even after they've left for more lucrative private-sector positions. Whatever the reason, Hayden hasn't backed down on any of his assertions, even as more evidence mounts that the agency has seriously overstepped its boundaries.

Hayden was interviewed this past weekend on Face the Nation. We covered his claim that Snowden is a "traitor" earlier, a claim based on the press' misrepresentation of Snowden's letters to Germany and Brazil seeking asylum. [Full transcript here, needlessly marred by an autoplay video.] The usual talking points were deployed, but despite going head-to-head with an interviewer, Hayden still cherry-picked what he would actually respond to.


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NSA Admits Lots Of People Could Have Done What Snowden Did | Techdirt.com

NSA Admits Lots Of People Could Have Done What Snowden Did | Techdirt.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The NSA keeps changing its story about Snowden. Was he brilliant or a nobody? Did he have access to all these documents or did he have to hack into systems? Did he get the important stuff or not? Each time the story seems to be different.


A few months ago, you may recall the NSA insisted that Snowden needed to borrow the identities of others to access the documents he had. They also argued that he must have bypassed or deleted log files.


However, in an interview, the NSA's Director of Technology, Lonny Anderson, admits that basically anyone at the NSA with top secret clearance could all access the same stuff and also claims that all the log files were there:


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MISO Completes 'Largest Ever' Power Grid Integration | Renew-Grid.com

MISO Completes 'Largest Ever' Power Grid Integration | Renew-Grid.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The Midcontinent Independent System Operator (MISO) says cheers went up in its control room last night after more than two years of intensive planning and training led to the smooth integration of a four-state region of the electric grid across the South into MISO's existing footprint in the Midwest.

The change in control, or "cutover," took place at the stroke of midnight as Wednesday passed into Thursday and extends MISO's operational and market footprints from the Gulf of Mexico all the way to Manitoba, Canada.

“With this change, MISO’s new members across the South will begin to receive the broad array of benefits that our markets provide, including the cost savings realized from improved reliability and efficient commitment and dispatch,” says MISO President and CEO John Bear. “Collectively, we celebrate the successful integration and can begin to focus on the future - delivering reliability and economic benefits to millions more people.”

In total, the grid operator says it now manages a combined footprint of 65,280 miles of transmission with total electric generation capacity throughout MISO of approximately 196 GW, making MISO one of the largest power grid operators in the world.

The integration added 10 new transmission-owning companies, six local balancing authorities and 33 new market participants from Mississippi, Louisiana, Arkansas, Texas and Missouri to MISO. This new region - referred to as MISO South - includes the following transmission owners and local balancing authorities: Entergy (Arkansas, Mississippi, Louisiana, Texas, Gulf States and New Orleans), Cleco Corp., Lafayette Utilities System, Louisiana Energy and Power Authority, Louisiana Generating, South Mississippi Electric Power Association. and East Texas Electric Cooperative.


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We need to talk about TED | TheGuardian.com

We need to talk about TED | TheGuardian.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

In our culture, talking about the future is sometimes a polite way of saying things about the present that would otherwise be rude or risky.


But have you ever wondered why so little of the future promised in TED talks actually happens? So much potential and enthusiasm, and so little actual change. Are the ideas wrong? Or is the idea about what ideas can do all by themselves wrong?


I write about entanglements of technology and culture, how technologies enable the making of certain worlds, and at the same time how culture structures how those technologies will evolve, this way or that. It's where philosophy and design intersect.
 
So the conceptualization of possibilities is something that I take very seriously. That's why I, and many people, think it's way past time to take a step back and ask some serious questions about the intellectual viability of things like TED.


So my TED talk is not about my work or my new book – the usual spiel – but about TED itself, what it is and why it doesn't work.


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Don Means on Libraries and White Spaces - Community Broadband Bits Episode 79 | community broadband networks

Don Means on Libraries and White Spaces - Community Broadband Bits Episode 79 | community broadband networks | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

This week, Don Means joins us to talk about public libraries, their role in the modern era, and an interesting pilot project involving several libraries and white spaces wireless technology. Don is the coordinator of the Gigabit Libraries Network and has a passion for both libraries and expanding Internet access to all.


We offer some basic background on "TV white spaces" wireless technology (see our other coverage of that technology here). The pilot libraries in this project are using white spaces as backhaul from a library branch location to nearby areas where they have created Wi-Fi hot spots.


Libraries involved with the project are located in Kansas, New Hampshire, Colorado, Illinois, Mississippi, and California.


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Google's for-profit surveillance problem | PandoDaily.com

Google's for-profit surveillance problem | PandoDaily.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

“We know where you are. We know where you’ve been. We can more or less know what you’re thinking about.”


“Your digital identity will live forever… because there’s no delete button.”    


—Eric Schmidt, Chairman, Google


Early last week, some of the biggest names in Silicon Valley announced that they had gotten together to form a new forward-thinking organization dedicated to promoting government surveillance reform in the name of “free expression” and “privacy.”


The charade should have been laughed at and mocked — after all, these same companies feed on privacy for profit, and unfettered surveillance is their stock and trade. Instead, it was met with cheers and fanfare from reporters and privacy and tech experts alike. “Finally!” people cried, Silicon Valley has grown up and matured enough to help society tackle the biggest problem of our age: the runaway power of the modern surveillance state.


The Guardian described the tech companies’ plan as “radical,” and predicted it would “end many of the current programs through which governments spy on citizens at home and abroad.” Laura W. Murphy, Director of ACLU’s DC Legislative Office, published an impassioned blog post praising tech giants for urging President Barack Obama and Congress to enact comprehensive reform of government surveillance. Silicon Valley booster Jeff Jarvis could hardly contain his glee. “Bravo,” he yelped. “The companies came down at last on the side of citizens over spies.” And then added:


"Spying is bad for the internet; what’s bad for the internet is bad for Silicon Valley; and — to reverse the old General Motors saw — what’s bad for Silicon Valley is bad for America."


But while leading tech and privacy experts like Jarvis slobber over Silicon Valley megacorps and praise their heroic stand against oppressive government surveillance, most still don’t seem to mind that these same tech billionaires run vast private sector surveillance operations of their own: hi-tech spying operations that vacuum up private information and use it to compile detailed dossiers on hundreds of millions of people around the world — and that’s on top of their work colluding and contracting with government intelligence agencies.


If you step back and look at the bigger picture, it’s not hard to see that Silicon Valley runs on for-profit surveillance, and that it dwarfs anything being run by the NSA.


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NSA's ANT Division Catalog of Exploits for Nearly Every Major Software/Hardware/Firmware | LeakedSource.com

NSA's ANT Division Catalog of Exploits for Nearly Every Major Software/Hardware/Firmware | LeakedSource.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

After years of speculation that electronics can be accessed by intelligence agencies through a back door, an internal NSA catalog reveals that such methods already exist for numerous end-user devices.


When it comes to modern firewalls for corporate computer networks, the world’s second largest network equipment manufacturer doesn’t skimp on praising its own work. According to Juniper Networks’ online PR copy, the company’s products are “ideal” for protecting large companies and computing centers from unwanted access from outside. They claim the performance of the company’s special computers is “unmatched” and their firewalls are the “best-in-class.” Despite these assurances, though, there is one attacker none of these products can fend off — the United States’ National Security Agency.


Specialists at the intelligence organization succeeded years ago in penetrating the company’s digital firewalls. A document viewed by SPIEGEL resembling a product catalog reveals that an NSA division called ANT has burrowed its way into nearly all the security architecture made by the major players in the industry — including American global market leader Cisco and its Chinese competitor Huawei, but also producers of mass-market goods, such as US computer-maker Dell and Apple’s iPhone. See: Cisco / Dell / Apple Comments Re: NSA Backdoors


These NSA agents, who specialize in secret back doors, are able to keep an eye on all levels of our digital lives — from computing centers to individual computers, from laptops to mobile phones. For nearly every lock, ANT seems to have a key in its toolbox. And no matter what walls companies erect, the NSA’s specialists seem already to have gotten past them.


This, at least, is the impression gained from flipping through the 50-page document. The list reads like a mail-order catalog, one from which other NSA employees can order technologies from the ANT division for tapping their targets’ data. The catalog even lists the prices for these electronic break-in tools, with costs ranging from free to $250,000.


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Philip Hewitt's curator insight, January 3, 2014 1:25 AM

your business and can easily understand your business requirements. A Custom Software Development Company really should understand the business needs and setting in order to meet your requirements.

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WikiLeaks' Julian Assange Calls on Computer Hackers to Unite Against NSA Surveillance | Truth-Out.org

WikiLeaks' Julian Assange Calls on Computer Hackers to Unite Against NSA Surveillance | Truth-Out.org | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

WikiLeaks founder Julian Assange addressed a major gathering of computer experts Monday at the Chaos Communication Congress in Hamburg, Germany, calling on them to join forces in resisting government intrusions on internet freedom and privacy.


We play highlights from Assange’s speech, as well as the one given by Sarah Harrison, the WikiLeaks member who accompanied Edward Snowden to Russia.


We also hear from independent journalist and security expert Jacob Appelbaum, who reveals a spying tool used by the National Security Agency known as a "portable continuous wave generator."


The remote-controlled device works in tandem with tiny electronic implants to bounce invisible waves of energy off keyboards and monitors to see what is being typed. It works even if the target computer is not connected to the Internet.


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Court Says Border Searches Of Your Computer Are Okay Because You Shouldn't Keep Important Info On Your Computer | Techdirt.com

Court Says Border Searches Of Your Computer Are Okay Because You Shouldn't Keep Important Info On Your Computer | Techdirt.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

This one is hardly a surprise, given how many (though not all) courts have ruled concerning searches of computing devices at the border. The government's general theory is that there is no 4th Amendment right at the border, and thus customs officials can search anything.


The argument that they're trying to prevent "bad stuff" from getting into the country really doesn't make much sense though. If bad stuff is "on a computer" it could easily be sent digitally across the border with no intervention from a customs official.


Furthermore, making border searches of laptops and phones even more troubling is the nature of how information is stored. When we pack for a trip we deliberately choose what to include in our suitcase -- so we know what's coming with us. However, on our electronic devices, we pretty much store absolutely everything. Arguing that these are subject to a full search seems problematic -- but many courts have found otherwise.

And, now there's another one. A judge in NY has dismissed a challenge to the searches brought by the ACLU. The judge, Edward Korman, repeatedly quotes former head of Homeland Security, Michael Chertoff, who now makes money by hyping up the threats the country faces, so it's not like he's the most unbiased of folks to be relying on for how important these border searches really are. Judge Korman claims that the defendants have no standing to bring the case in the first place.


There is one individual (a PhD. student) who actually had his computer searched, and then some professional organizations who worried about their members having their computers searched. The judge is simply not impressed by their arguments... at all. He notes that Customs and Border Patrol appears to search so few laptops that it's highly unlikely that any individual will have theirs searched -- and thus these groups can't really allege a likely harm. He points out that it's wrong to use a declaratory judgment case to address "a claim of alleged injury based on speculation as to conduct which may or may not occur at some unspecified future date."


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2013 in Utah Government: Mobile Apps and Open Data | Dave Fletcher's Government and Technology Blog

2013 in Utah Government: Mobile Apps and Open Data | Dave Fletcher's Government and Technology Blog | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

As I survey the landscape of digital government around the globe in 2013, there continues to be plenty of progress as government agencies recognize the value of making services and information available online.


In Utah, 2013 was a year of significant growth.  On one hand, we are experiencing record numbers of visitors to our Utah.gov domain, while on the other hand I am seeing some slowdown in the number of new services being added to our portfolio.  The open data movement has been a big driver globally.

In the midst of supporting all of the numerous business changes that occurred in Utah in 2013, there were also some major egovernment accomplishments.


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Security Firm Warns About App That Pays for Unused Text Messages

Security Firm Warns About App That Pays for Unused Text Messages | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Since 1999, millions of people have donated time on their personal computers for the SETI@home project, which analyzes radio signals to look for intelligent life in outer space.


An entrepreneur now wants people to donate time on their mobile phones for a less high-minded pursuit.


Lookout, a San Francisco maker of security software for mobile phones, has published a warning about a free app for Android devices called Bazuc, which pays people $0.001 for each text message they allow partner companies to send from users' mobile phones.


The app, which targets people with unlimited text-messaging plans, comes with a major hitch: Using it violates the terms of service for many mobile providers, and some people's phones have been cut off. One feature of Bazuc's service is it helps companies evade spam filters by sending messages through multiple user accounts.


Lookout said the app has been downloaded around the world — including detections in Brazil, the Dominican Republic, Ghana, Israel, Thailand, and Venezuela — and that many of Bazuc's customers appear to be legitimate businesses. U.S. and African banks have used Bazuc to send customer-service messages, such as account changes and notification of money transfers, while spammers and other illicit users have also engaged the service, according to Lookout.


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Microsoft customer privacy vs. NSA snooping | NetworkWorld.com

Microsoft customer privacy vs. NSA snooping | NetworkWorld.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

In the midst of the NSA snooping scandal, Microsoft is talking up a three-pronged approach to keep customer data safe from the prying eyes of governments.


In a blog post, the company’s top lawyer pledges Microsoft will use more encryption, fight government demands for customer data and make its own source code available to the scrutiny of government customers.


While some of these measures are already in place and some won’t be available to all customers, they represent an effort to take a stand against government efforts - such as the NSA mass surveillance - to gather information about Microsoft customers, says the statement by Brad Smith, the general counsel and executive vice president for Microsoft’s legal and corporate affairs.


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The Privacy Threats of 2014 | Motherboard Blog

The Privacy Threats of 2014 | Motherboard Blog | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

After Edward Snowden released some of the most significant national security leaks ever, we've been fed a constant stream of sickening revelations. Snowden's message has mostly been listened to, and the year culminated with him even getting a spot on prime time TV to tell us that “a child born today will grow up with no conception of privacy at all.” 


But it's not just the NSA's unregulated carpet bombing of civil liberties that you need to worry about. While we'll apparently hear more from Snowden in the new year, a new barrage of threats to privacy are also likely to take place. These are the privacy threats of the near future.


Initially funded in 2012, FirstNet emerged as a “key recommendation of the 9/11 Commission.” It's a project that seeks to create a single broadband network over the entirety of the United States for use by first responders, be they paramedics, fire-fighters or law enforcement.


At the moment, there are fewer than a dozen tests of FirstNet taking place in states including California, North Carolina, New Mexico, Colorado, Mississippi and New Jersey, and the project does have some positive applications. One example is that after 'tagging' a disaster victim with a small device, their vital signs can be monitored remotely from a control centre, allowing medical staff to more efficiently prioritise those who most need treatment.


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Are The Techno Riche Really Ruining San Francisco? Yes, Says Rebecca Solnit | Bloomberg Businessweek

Are The Techno Riche Really Ruining San Francisco? Yes, Says Rebecca Solnit | Bloomberg Businessweek | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

The author who has best traced the pre-Hewlett-Packard origins of Silicon Valley (in her biography of the photographer and inventor Eadweard Muybridge), Rebecca Solnit was also among the first to cast the Google bus as a symbol of disparity and discontent in the San Francisco Bay Area. Writing a year ago, she described the big, luxury coaches that ferry employees from San Francisco and Oakland south to Google headquarters in Mountain View, Calif., as “gleaming white, with dark-tinted windows, like limousines, and some days I think of them as the spaceships on which our alien overlords have landed to rule over us.”


Today, Solnit’s cheeky and dyspeptic essay appears prescient. The Google bus, which stands in for all the similar private coach services contracted to Apple, Facebook , Yahoo!, et al., has emerged as a flashpoint, with fairly regular protest blockades. The companies’ “secret bus routes” have been mapped. There’ve been frequent bursts of outrage (and mock outrage) over the “tone-deaf arrogance” of tech workers. There’ve been a number of troubling evictions in a competitive housing market responding to tech wealth. And there’s broader concern that the search engines and social media upon which millions rely have become tools for U.S. government spying, further undermining trust in tech corporations as good citizens.


For Solnit in particular, the recent headlines and tension have been nothing if not déjà vu. In 2000, collaborating with the artist Susan Schwartzenberg, she published a book on the impact of the dot-com boom titled Hollow City: The Siege of San Francisco and the Crisis of American Urbanism. The city, she wrote, “has been for most of its 150-year existence both a refuge and an anomaly. Soon it will be neither. Gentrification is transforming the city by driving out the poor and working class, including those who have chosen to give their lives to unlucrative pursuits such as art, activism, social experimentation, social service.


But gentrification is just the fin above water. Below is the rest of the shark: a new American economy in which most of us will be poorer, a few will be far richer, and everything will be faster, more homogenous and more controlled or controllable.” As 2014 begins, Solnit says, “It’s very dot-com boom redux—except that the dot-com boom reamed the city in some ways, and this wave is kind of scouring out what survived.” We spoke over the phone from her apartment in San Francisco’s Mission district, which she has the good fortune to own. The interview has been edited and condensed, and includes written replies from a follow-up e-mail.


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Massachusetts Makes Smart Grid Mandatory | Greentech Media

Massachusetts Makes Smart Grid Mandatory | Greentech Media | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Massachusetts has joined a growing list of states demanding that its investor-owned utilities invest in the smart grid -- and find new models for how those investments should be valued. Consider it the latest move in a state-by-state reconfiguration of utility business models, aimed at creating new rules for sharing the costs and benefits of grid modernization between utility shareholders and customers.


Monday’s order (PDF) from the state’s Department of Public Utilities will require the state’s big utilities to submit a ten-year grid modernization plan (GMP) in the next six months. Advanced metering will be required as part of that plan -- a significant development in a state which has seen almost no smart meters deployed to date.


These upcoming smart meter plans will need to include technology and business cases, not just for core automated meter reading functions, but for a range of additional features like outage detection and restoration, smart appliance communication and control capability, and support of power quality and conservation voltage reduction.


The plans also must include a request for pre-authorization of investments, along with “a mechanism to allow for more timely cost recovery than is typically available” under state regulations. That’s where the state’s proposal for coming up with a new way to measure the costs and benefits of these deployments comes in.


Massachusetts has about 3.4 million electricity customers, all but about 400,000 of which are served by an investor-owned utility. Of those, nearly half are customers of the state’s two biggest utilities -- NSTAR, which serves much of the greater Boston area and Southeastern Massachusetts, and National Grid (NGG), which serves broad swaths of the state from the coast to the western border.


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New Year's Message: Optimism On The Cusp Of Big Changes | Techdirt.com

New Year's Message: Optimism On The Cusp Of Big Changes | Techdirt.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

While Techdirt started back in 1997 (yikes), since 2008 I've had an end of the year tradition in which I use the final post of the year to reflect a bit more generally on the topic of optimism. It kicked off after I received some comments from people questioning how I didn't go crazy after writing about all of these negative things -- and I noted that I'm actually quite optimistic and happy.


The frustration comes from all of the efforts to hold back the pace of progress, but I'm quite excited about all the progress that is happening. In 2009, I focused more on the power of creativity and innovation, and followed that up in 2010 by noting that innovation can help turn pessimism to optimism.


In 2011, I pointed out that we could then take that innovation and optimism and finally start to make a real difference, because the power was now in our hands.


That turned out to be prescient, because 2012 was a year where we started to see real change, as people spoke up and actually made a huge difference around things like SOPA and ACTA.

For this year, that trend continues in a big way. The accomplishments of the past have only resulted in continued pressure to change things for the better in the future.


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Zach Sims says programming skills—and his startup—offer a sure route to employment. | WSJ.com

Zach Sims says programming skills—and his startup—offer a sure route to employment. | WSJ.com | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Want a sure route to a job? Learn to code, says startup co-founder Zach Sims.

As chief executive of Codecademy, a two-year-old company that offers free, online instruction in computer programming, Mr. Sims believes that programming skills can be a ticket to upward mobility just as a college degree has been for generations.

Lots of people seem to agree: 24 million unique users had signed on for courses on Codecademy's platform by December, compared with eight million as of a year earlier. And the learn-to-code movement has gone global, with celebrities like Miami Heat forward Chris Bosh and nonprofits such as Girls Who Code and Code.org urging people of all ages to become fluent in JavaScript, HTML, Python and other computer languages.

Yet it isn't clear whether Codecademy will profit from teaching people how to program. For now, Mr. Sims is more focused on changing the world through technology by bringing his product to the masses. Revenue streams will appear in time, the 23-year-old Ivy League dropout says.

As Codecademy geared up for a wave of new students motivated by New Year's resolutions, Mr. Sims talked about where the New York-based company is headed. Edited excerpts:

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NC: Former downtown cigarette factory sells for $7.5 million | Durham Herald Sun

NC: Former downtown cigarette factory sells for $7.5 million | Durham Herald Sun | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

A former Liggett Group cigarette factory on Main Street downtown sold on Monday to a Maryland-based real estate company that specializes in building out research space for prominent academic institutions.


The vacant, seven-story former factory at 701 W. Main St., known as the Chesterfield Building, sold for $7.5 million to Wexford Science & Technology. Wexford is part of the real estate investment trust BioMed Realty and specializes in developing facilities for institutions, especially universities, university-led research parks, and health care systems.


In a news release announcing the sale, the company cited the building’s proximity to four major universities -- Duke University, the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, N.C. State University and N.C. Central University --  as a factor in the company’s interest in the property.


“As a developer of research-based communities for prominent research universities and their health systems around the country, we consider the Durham market, and the Chesterfield Building, an ideal location to continue Wexford Science & Technology’s expansion,” Daniel C. Cramer, senior vice president of development for Wexford Science & Technology, said in the release.


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Pirate Bay Uploads Surge 50% in a Year, Despite Anti-Piracy Efforts | TorrentFreak

Pirate Bay Uploads Surge 50% in a Year, Despite Anti-Piracy Efforts | TorrentFreak | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Over the past year copyright holders have worked hard to stop The Pirate Bay from operating, but without success. Despite several domain changes and ISP blockades in various countries the resilient torrent site keeps on growing. This growth is reflected in the number of uploaded torrents, which increased by 50% over the past year. The Pirate Bay now lists over 2.8 million files, with video being the most shared content.


2013 has been an eventful year for The Pirate Bay, to say the least.

The site celebrated its tenth anniversary, but with pressure from copyright holders mounting, it had to switch domain names no less than six times.


In addition, the site continues to be censored by courts all around the world, which have ordered Internet providers to block subscriber access to the torrent site.


The idea behind these anti-piracy efforts is that people will eventually stop using The Pirate Bay. Thus far, however, traffic to the infamous torrent site continues to grow, and so is the number of torrents being uploaded.


Over the past year the number of new torrents added to The Pirate Bay went up 50%, and the uploads doubled compared to two years ago.


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Bad news for cord cutters: ABC starts restricting access to full TV show episodes | GigaOM Tech News

Bad news for cord cutters: ABC starts restricting access to full TV show episodes | GigaOM Tech News | Surfing the Broadband Bit Stream | Scoop.it

Fans of Modern Family, Scandal, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D. and Revenge just got another item to add to their list of New Year’s resolutions: find their cable account credentials. Starting on January 6, ABC will require viewers to sign in with their cable account information if they want to watch new episodes of the network’s shows online the day after they air on TV.


The network explained the new requirements in an FAQ this way:


“Pay TV service providers are a key part of the television industry in delivering broadcast content through new technology platforms. Now, with the support of participating pay TV service providers, the ABC network is able to continue to bring live entertainment, news and sports programming on a national and local level as well as the latest on-demand episodes on new, emerging digital platforms at no additional cost to their subscribers.”


The requirement to sign in to watch also extends to Hulu.com, where ABC up until now made its shows available for free to everyone. Going forward, next-day access is restricted to either Hulu Plus subscribers or subscribers who authenticate through their cable provider. Both Hulu and ABC.com will continue to make episodes available to everyone, including people who don’t pay for cable, eight days after the initial air date.


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