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Monthly Archives: October 2013

28
Oct
2013

Mozilla Lightbeam Tool for Firefox Illuminates Who is Watching Web Users

by Administrator

Mozilla Lightbeam Tool for Firefox Illuminates Who is Watching Web Users With online privacy at the top of the public’s mind in the wake of revelations of the US’s NSA surveillance program, Mozilla, the open-source community behind the popular Firefox browser, has launched Lightbeam, an add-on for Firefox that will reveal just who is looking over your shoulder as you browse the internet.

Most web users have long been aware that their digital trail is being tracked, being utilized for targeted advertising. Search for hotels in South Carolina and “miraculously” you’ll be seeing ads for hotels in South Carolina popping up on sites all across your internet travels for weeks to come. Users who install and activate Lightbeam on their computers will be able to view real-time visualizations of the sites’s they’ve visited and the third-party entities that are harvesting their data for commercial purposes.

The add-on allows users to opt-in to anonymously sharing their data, which will go towards producing a “big picture” view of web tracking, revealing the activity of these third-party data aggregators. Mozilla’s executive director, Mark Surman says: “It’s a stake in the ground in terms of letting people know the ways they are being tracked. At Mozilla, we believe everyone should be in control of their user data and privacy and we want people to make informed decisions about their Web experience.” While many are cognizant of cookies installed on one’s computer when visiting a website, many are unaware of third parties’ access to those cookies to glean the interests and browsing history of browsers to build a digital picture of individual users to then use for marketing purposes.

While Firefox and other major browsers provide for the option of disabling cookies and the EU has passed “The Cookie Law,” which requires sites to explicitly state how they will be using users’ data and who they will share it with as well as receiving consent from users prior to allowing cookies to be installed on their computers. For users who have activated Lightbeam, when they visit a website, the add-on creates a real time visualization of all the third parties that are active on that page. As they then browse to a second site, the add-on highlights the third parties that are also active there and shows which third parties have tracked their presence on both sites. The visualization will grow with every site visited.

While according to Mozilla they have had “tremendous pressure” exerted on them by trade bodies who would have preferred to continue their work unobserved and behind the curtain, the group feels it is duty-bound to bring transparency to the Web, particularly in today’s climate of user uneasiness about how their data is being utilized and whether their privacy has been compromised. Site owners who have agreements with third parties that track users of their sites are advised to make sure that you are comfortable with the structure of the relationship becoming public knowledge, as we would predict that the aggregation of this data will reveal relationships that will cost some sites customers. This browser tool also bring to light just how far ad networks and commercial user tracking have come in a short amount of time. Navigating the best practices available to strike a balance between customer-focused service and privacy protection is likely to be a major point of emphasis in the months or years to come from a Department of Justice and Search Engine Optimization perspective as well.

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25
Oct
2013

NASA Laser Transmission of Data Achieves Best Wireless Transfer Speeds Ever

by Administrator

The recent opening of the movie Gravity has many looking to space with a renewed curiosity about the technological marvels that have been deployed over the years by the National Aeronautics and Space Administration (NASA). Many of the mainstream commercial technologies we now take for granted were originally developed by NASA or the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) of the Defense Department. Useful tools ranging from LED lights to infrared scanning and GPS may soon have a new sibling from the same point of origin making its way toward commercial applications.

NASA announced it has set a new record for communication in space by beaming information from a substation on Earth to the LADEE probe currently orbiting the moon nearly 236,121 miles away. The LADEE probe is the home of the Lunar Laser Communication Demonstration (LLCD) device which recorded the record breaking communication at a speed of 622 megabits per second (Mbps). Most high end broadband consumer bandwidth is presently limited to around 75 Mbps by comparison and uploads of only 50 Mbps. When dealing with huge distances, the radio signal system formerly used by  NASA to communicate with lunar satellites was approximately five times slower than the new laser transmission technology.

NASA used radio waves and they are still the preferred method because they require much less ‘aiming’ to be effective, but as a target gets farther away, much more power is needed to transmit the signal. That means much larger receiving dishes and antennas on probes that get as long as 70 meters. Using a concentrated beam of light, a spacecraft may be able to send data at much faster rates carrying higher resolution images and transmitting the first 3D video of deep space.

While there is reason to be excited, the LLCD method still has many challenges to overcome, especially in the realm of “aim” because it requires a laser beam to hit a very specific target that can be thousands of miles away, while the target continues to move – and any deviation from that direct hit will result in dropped transmissions. Add in the complications of atmospheric changes, weather and so on… and it becomes easy to see that spaceships are likely to carry both a radio and an LLCD set of communication systems for the foreseeable future.

That being said, NASA intends to launch a larger more sophisticated version of the LLCD in 2017, calling it the Laser Communications Relay Demonstration (LCRD), which may provide even greater speeds and reliability. As the world continues to move toward wireless devices, mobile connectivity and a need for even greater speeds of transfer with crucial packets of information, NationalNet will continue to monitor all advancements in the communications field to keep our clients ahead of the curve. We may not be far off from relays of concentrated light based transfer systems that allow wireless devices to operate at untethered fiber-optic speeds.

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15
Oct
2013

U.S. Government Losing Its Grip On Internet Infrastructure

by Administrator

Last week the directors of all the major Internet organizations including: ICANN, the Internet Engineering Task Force, the Internet Architecture Board, the World Wide Web Consortium, the Internet Society, and all five of the regional Internet address registries met in Montevideo, Uruguay and essentially turned their backs on the US government. These organizations, tasked with development and administration of internet standards and resources are initiating a sharp break away from three decades of US hegemony in key matters of internet governance.

The Montevideo Statement on the Future of Internet Cooperation issued by the conference calls for the “acceleration of the globalization” of the functions carried out by ICANN and IANA. The move is being seen as a stern rejection of the current arrangement in which the day-to-day operations of the Internet’s underlying infrastructure have been supervised by the US Department of Commerce since their inception.

This kind of tectonic shift in the governance of the internet is unprecedented and may be just the beginning, as the very next day, the President and CEO of ICANN, Mr. Fadi Chehadi, met with Brazilian President Dilma Rousseff, a long outspoken critic of the United States’ internet dominance in general, and electronic spying programs in particular.

According to the official statement of the Brazilian government that was issued after the meeting, Mr. Chehadi asked: “the president [of Brazil] to elevate her leadership to a new level, to ensure that we can all get together around a new model of governance in which all are equal.” The statement goes on to call for an internet governance summit to be held in April of 2014 in Rio de Janeiro which seems to cement a path toward internet governance that will occur without the direct oversight of the US government. A change that many believe was at least in part precipitated by facts uncovered by Eric Snowden regarding the NSA Prism surveillance protocols and examples of US government interests using the internet to spy directly on the email or other communications of sovereign nations and their leaders.

This potential loss of US control, with no replacement oversight authority in place to take on the responsibility is an uncertain development. Writing for the Internet Governance Project, Milton Mueller, a Syracuse University professor, stated: “The proper substitute for unilateral Commerce Department oversight, we argued, was not multilateral “political oversight” but an international agreement articulating clear rules regarding what ICANN can and cannot do, an agreement that explicitly protects freedom of expression and other individual rights and liberal Internet governance principles.” In the past, there was but one master and while the existing setup certainly had it’s drawbacks, its replacement will likely be chaotic as various newly-empowered and disparate political interests jockey their agendas.

Domain names, TLDs, IP protocols, the DNS system and just about every other meaningful aspect of the nuts and bolts technologies the internet is built upon may all soon be governed in a completely different way.

There has also been no official word from the United States government or the commerce department about this issue, which may be at least in part the result of a continuing government shutdown which has caused all but essential government employees to be furloughed why vital matters of importance like this one appear to simply be falling through the cracks.

NationalNet will continue to monitor these changes closely and will report any proactive steps our clients can take to solidify their own position on the world wide web as governments and quasi-governmental groups continue to bicker over the technology, privacy and protocols that underlie a network our entire world now relies on for essential needs on a daily basis.

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07
Oct
2013

Premier Patent Troll Intellectual Ventures Struggles To Maintain Support

by Administrator

A little more than a decade ago, famed tech innovator Nathan Myhrvold founded Intellectual Ventures, and the company has gone on to acquire more than 30,000 patents controlling advances of intellectual property in many different disciplines. According to a new report by TechDirt, the patent trolling company is running out of cash and seeking more than 3 Billion dollars in additional support from backers.

Reuters is reporting that Intellectual Ventures has gone so far as to completely stop patenting new intellectual property during this fund-raising effort, and it appears that many insiders are backing away from a business model they may not have intended to unleash in the first place.

Microsoft Corp, an early investor in Intellectual Venture is not invested in any new funding of the entity “at this time,” spokeswoman Jennifer Crider said. Google Inc appears to be in full agreement with that mindset based on the fact that even as an early investor, the company has recently found itself opposed to Intellectual Ventures in many aspects of the patent policy debate and has now publicly stated it too will not participate in any new funding campaign. “We joined Intellectual Ventures’ first fund as a way to defend ourselves against unjustified patent claims,” Google spokesman Matt Kallman said. “Once we came to understand IV’s operating model, we didn’t join its later funds.”

As far back at 2006 techdirt and other media sources were already reporting about the alleged bait-and-switch pitch Mr. Myhrvold used to bring in the original investment in what has become a monstrous patent hoarding entity that brings in revenue by taxing innovation rather than fostering or protecting it. According to tech dirt “He told everyone that he was building a “patent defense fund,” which tech companies could share to avoid getting sued by others. It was only later that the companies realized they were enabling a new massive patent troll instead. And it seems that many are not happy.”

As patent trolls continue to threaten smaller firms and startups by choking them in the cradle, they are also raising the ire of larger companies who they slowly bleed for profit with seemingly innocuous patents that later become large cost lawsuits or long fee licensing settlements. The problem has gotten so out of hand in recent years that PatentlyO.com (the world’s leading patent law blog) reported the mind-bending fact that Haliburton actually tried to file a patent on the concept of patent trolling… under the twisted logic that they would be able to counter-sue any patent troll who attacked them with a claim that they were violating Haliburton’s own patent on the idea of patent trolling. When innovation of that sort is being applied to overcoming patent trolling, rather than inventing new products and services or enhancing existing ones – society pays a very high price in the lack of advancement or outright stagnation caused by a toxic business environment.

Perhaps a man as bright as Mr. Myhrvold will reach the realization that obtaining funding from innovators in the long term by creating and actually producing worthwhile products (utilizing the patents Intellectual Ventures already owns) is a much better business model than the short term benefits of lock-boxing new ideas and exacting a tariff from anyone interested in moving technology forward with the gun-boat diplomacy tactics that patent trolls are known for wielding.

NationalNet is proud to work with many creative companies whose ideas enhance and evolve our own infrastructure over time. We have also seen some our clients mind-blowing creativity and inspiration turned into very successful business ventures through hard work and perseverance. Staying ahead of the curve isn’t easy, and society benefits most when those who manage to move technology forward are able to reap the reward their success has earned them.

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03
Oct
2013

Spurred by Google Fiber – New Gigabit Internet Service is on ISP Agendas

by Administrator

Spurred by Google Fiber – New Gigabit Internet Service is on ISP Agendas

google fiberAs we recently reported, America is woefully under-served when it comes to broadband internet service, though there are some promising signs that this is changing. In an act of enlightened self-interest, Google built out an ultra-fast fiber optic network in Kansas City, with a gigabit internet connection available for consumers at the low price of $70 per month, and a “free for life” 300 mbps internet service option available for a one-time construction fee of $300.00 total.

Google has repeatedly stated that it really isn’t interested in becoming an ISP, but is in fact trying to shame the established players into providing the bandwidth that they believe is required now, and will become even more crucial in the future. The cudgel in the equation is that if Google follows the business model established in Kansas City, their arrival in your city will eliminate the established players with antiquated “skinny” connections by supplanting them with robust gigabit throughput at rates not designed to be particularly profitable.

Google has now announced that the second city they will launch Google Fiber in will be Austin, Texas and that has seemingly spurred AT&T into action. Starting in December, some Austin residents will be able to order service via AT&T U-verse with GigaPowerSM. At first, the service will provide only 300 Mbps speeds, but the company promises an upgrade to a full 1 gigabit connection by the middle of next year.

The big names in ISPs have been dragging their feet in rolling out true broadband capabilities for consumers according to Google and industry market analysis reports, with AT&T and Verizon seeming to be much more interested in concentrating their efforts on mobile business while putting their land-line internet infrastructure into “harvest mode” and halting any significant investments in improving throughput.

Google Fiber’s arrival in key markets may force other ISPs to get on the stick and improve their systems, lest they risk losing the market altogether to a new provider who is daring them to do better.

Time Warner Cable also announced a new broadband wireless service in Austin right after the Google Fiber announcement, and CenturyLink announced that they would begin work on gigabit fiber services in Omaha, Nebraska – not long after Google announced that they would be taking over Provo, Utah’s fiber internet provider. The results do seem to demonstrate that existing providers will compete when threatened with losing market share, even in small markets if Google comes to town.

Google’s solo attempts at forcing improvement of the content delivery market could be terrific for consumers, though it may cause profit loss for complacent ISPs who would prefer to lock down a market and thrive on charging customers for infrastructure put in place long ago.

As ISPs get the message and begin build-out of gigabit infrastructure across the country, the shift heralds the arrival of truly broad broadband. Site owners and IT professionals who have long sought to fit high quality content through skinny pipes may not face the duality of offering ultra-optimized sites for use by mobile consumers on pay as you go plans along with much more content rich options for customers who are riding a new gigabit wave of technological advancement from their desktops.

NationalNet continues to evolve our state of the art collocated servers and fully managed hosting services to put you in an enviable position for this next wave of high speed broadband adoption and mobile expansion into emerging markets simultaneously. For more information about the many ways our hosting company can exceed your expectations, please contact one of our experienced representatives by phone or email at your earliest convenience. We look forward to helping you move forward at the fastest pace the internet allows… no matter how fast that becomes!

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