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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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27
Sep
2013

Content Makers Launch Controversial Elementary School Anti-Piracy Curriculum

by Administrator

Content Makers Launch Controversial Elementary School Anti-Piracy Curriculum

In an attempt to make inroads on what some perceive as the long-term threat digital piracy poses to content creating industries, the Motion Picture Association of America, the Recording Industry Association of America, Center For Copyright Infringement, Internet Keep Safe Coalition and some of the nation’s top ISPs have banded together to create an elementary school “copyright education” curriculum that is scheduled to be tested within California elementary schools this year. With a unique approach for each grade from kindergarten through sixth, the program hammers home a consistent message: copying content without paying for it is theft.

Critics of the program, which has not been released into classrooms yet, say that the program never once mentions the concept of fair use, and that the concept of a Creative Commons license is not raised until the fifth grade coursework, suggesting that rights holders who grant limited permission on re-use is somehow too complicated. Critics contend that even in explaining the Creative Commons, the lesson says that it’s illegal to make any copies of copyrighted works, explicitly stating on the fifth grade worksheet: “If a song or movie is copyrighted, you can’t copy it, download it, or use it in your own work without permission” which implies that it’s even unlawful to rip your own CDs to your own iPod.

Fair use is not a part of the teaching material because K-6 graders don’t have the ability to grasp it according to Marsali Hancock, President of the Internet Keep Safe Coalition, who said the program “is developmentally consistent with what children can learn at specific ages.” Hancock says the group will also develop materials for older kids that do discuss fair use at some point in the future.

“We’ve got some editing to do” concedes Glen Warren, vice president of the California School Library Association – the non-profit organization that helped produce the materials in conjunction with the Internet Keep Safe Coalition and content industry trade groups. Warren agrees that it is incorrect to tell students they can never use copyrighted works without permission, as the fifth-grade worksheet presently does. He stated that some of the package’s language may have been influenced by the rights holders and the Center for Copyright Information. “We’re moving along trying to get things a little closer to sanity, that tone and language, that came from that side of the fence, so to speak.”

 

The final curriculum remains to be seen, but the battle between industry and advocates for a new paradigm of copyright reflect the realities of the digital age and will most assuredly continue for quite some time to come. Digital content and publishing innovation will continue to push popular culture forward for the next generation, and students are being brought online at even earlier ages than ever before – making the evolving concepts of copyright, purchasing content, fair use, and materials safe for kids important for parents and publishers.

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18
Sep
2013

IBM Pledges One Billion Dollars to Support Linux on its Power Servers

by Administrator

IBM Pledges One Billion Dollars to Support Linux on its Power Servers

Historically IBM Power servers have run their own version of Unix, but sales have been contracting as more data centers transition toward Linux. IBM is no stranger to Linux, which it adapted for use on its mainframe products in the past. The company has previously made a Billion dollar investment in Linux during 2000, but now IBM has announced plans to spend another billion over the next four years adapting Linux and other open-source systems for their Power line of servers.

IBM Power servers have long held a reputation for being especially good with heavy-duty computing tasks, such as running large databases, but as more tech business becomes focused on web-based applications, sales of the Unix machines don’t seem to offer the growth opportunities that Linux based equipment is projected to provide. Many of the largest web companies, like Google, are now operating almost exclusively on Linux based machines. Most of the servers on the market are x86 machines, while IBM’s Power servers run a proprietary Power chipset, making it necessary for IBM to fund this investment as a way to develop and optimize open-source Linux software for their proprietary hardware.

“We continue to take share in Unix, but it’s just not growing as fast as Linux,” says Brad McCredie, an IBM vice president of Power development. Linux helped to popularize the open-source model, which allows users to get under the hood and modify the underlying instructions that create a program, allowing for the ultimate in customization and spurring quite a bit of innovation. That the base software is generally available for free is a big draw as well, particularly for those companies that buy servers by the thousands each time.

IBM is going to spend this billion dollars on facilities and personnel to help Power users make the move to Linux. They are also planning to create what company officials describe as a “Development Cloud,” which will be comprised of a large Power server farm operated by IBM that allows customers to use it remotely for building and testing new applications.

Though Linux is most often associated with servers, Linux also underlies the Android operating system, which has become by far the most popular operating system for the smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices that are quickly overtaking traditional computers in the consumer marketplace. IBM formally announced this investment in Linux at LinuxCon, an annual conference for developers and media held this week in New Orleans.

NationalNet uses Debian Linux servers throughout our Atlanta Collocation Data Center for all of our fully managed hosting and fully managed colocation clients. Debian Linux remains the most popular server operating system because it has been proven to be more secure and stable than competitors over a long period of time. NationalNet also locks down your data even further with custom safeguards that ensure only required data packages are installed.

As part of our continuing efforts to provide the highest level of data transfer efficiency for our clients and the growing wave of mobile device users coming online from emerging markets, we are also finding that our Debian Linux servers are much less resource intensive than competing operating systems. That means less memory and CPU requirements, faster throughput and the ability to satisfy your customers everywhere – whether they are using high speed broadband from a desktop in Atlanta, or a lower tier smartphone with a slow data connection from Indonesia and beyond

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12
Sep
2013

Free Smartphones May Push Connectivity and Efficiency To New Levels

by Administrator

Free Smartphones May Push Connectivity and Efficiency To New Levels

Cell phones using bandwidthInternet traffic growth is being driven by mobile devices and emerging markets. Now, as smartphone manufacturers, mobile carriers and forward thinking digital business owners all take notice, rumors are spreading that free smartphones may soon be offered by large players seeking to capture market share. Smartphones, tablets and other mobile devices already account for 25% of internet traffic. In the first quarter of 2013, tablets exceeded traditional desktop computer conversion rates for the first time according to reports by industry trade groups and Apple announced a new iPhone 5C at a much lower price point to spur growth. Now rumors persist that Amazon may soon unleash a free smartphone to capture market share and the pressure free content has caused on evolving business models may soon be amplified by free hardware providers.

In a recent frenzy of activity Microsoft has bought mobile device maker Nokia, Verizon and Vodaphone announced one of the largest deals in history, Apple released a low price iPhone 5C and now with rumors are suggesting E-commerce heavyweight, Amazon may be getting into the cellphone market by offering free smartphones. Amazon has subsequently denied the rumors with an official statement that “it will not offer a phone this year” and that the phone would “not be free.” However parsing their statement, particularly when there are only four months left in the year, it appears to offer little consolation for their competitors in the wireless space who have relied on wide per-device profit margins.

Unlike Apple or Samsung, who generate income by selling hardware, Amazon and Google generate revenue primarily through e-commerce sales and online advertising respectively, that puts them in position to sacrifice some potential profit on the sale of devices to bolster their primary businesses by increasing usage and expanding their own markets.

Even if Amazon is being candid about choosing not to release a “free” phone, it is still reasonable to expect that someone else will soon be offering free smartphones to the masses in the near future. Facebook has recently launched Internet.org, as previously reported here at NationalNet, to get cheaper or free data service to the developing world, and an ad-based smartphone system similar to what MagicJack or Walmart’s Basic Talk have done to land lines makes a lot of sense.

Given that non-desktop traffic is becoming a larger portion of internet traffic, site owners should definitely see now as the time to get your mobile house in order, particularly as mobile users have no patience for dealing with websites that don’t work well on their devices. In a recent survey, a full 76 percent of mobile users say they that they will leave if your site if it’s not optimized for mobile, and almost a third say they will never return.

Free internet connectivity from the Internet.org consortium seems to be making progress and now a price crash on mobile devices or free alternative appears to be looming on the technology horizon as well. That likely means a much greater benefit for sites that optimize their designs, reliably provide digital services with greater up-time, and efficiently make use of visitor bandwidth to reduce connectivity issues will stand to benefit greatly. What we have seen from free content users is that their expectations of quality and ease of use remain high, and converting them into consumers often means impressing them with the unique value of your product line.

NationalNet continues to evolve all aspects of our infrastructure to provide the best possible user experience for your mobile or traditional traffic because we understand that one day very soon, visitors who neither bought their own connection devices nor paid for their own data plans may become the largest segment of your site’s paying customers.

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03
Sep
2013

Consumer Broadband Connectivity May Be Stagnating In The United States

by Administrator

The Pew Research Center recently announced that only 70% of Americans have broadband internet access, which is up slightly from 66% in 2012, but couched within that number are some distressing statistics.

First, the definition of “broadband” used by the pollsters is anything better than dial-up, with both Pew and the FCC classifying any connection of 4 Mbps for downloads and 1 Mbps for uploads as fast enough to be counted as “broadband,” which is not a very useful metric for the demands of the modern era.

Secondly, the “digital divide” shows no signs of abating, with 89% of college graduates, and 88% of households with more than $75,000 in yearly income, having high-speed internet access at home – while broadband penetration for households of those who did not complete high school stands at a paltry 37% and at just 54% of households with incomes less than $30,000 per year. Suggesting that broadband access is becoming something that fuels economic disparity rather than something that is helping lower income individuals to join the middle class.

Racially, African-Americans and Latinos are far less likely to have high-speed internet access than their Caucasian counterparts, though Pew points out that many blacks and Latinos are starting to mitigate these numbers by utilizing smartphones as their primary connectivity platform, and that among those who don’t have home broadband, approximately 32% have mobile devices, accounting for an additional 10% of Americans with internet access and bringing broadband adoption more in line across racial demographics if one counts smartphones as broadband devices, which many experts consider to be a dubious assertion on its face.

In a recent editorial for Wired Magazine, Susan Crawford, a professor at Columbia University and the Cardozo School of Law, and author of Captive Audience: The Telecom Industry and Monopoly Power in the New Gilded Age, observes: “You could say DSL, satellite, and mobile wireless are all “high-speed broadband,” but that’s just like putting your local high-school football team in the same market as the New York Giants. It’s all football, but the two don’t — and can’t — compete.” With the ever-increasing bandwidth demands of the 21st century, Ms. Crawford argues that universal broadband adoption is what is necessary for America to remain competitive in the new information-centric global economy.

While there have been some moves to bring ultra-high-speed internet access to Americans, such as Google’s famed fiber-to-the-home network in Kansas City, there are powerful forces hard at work amongst the incumbent providers to make restrictive metered usage the norm, delivered through their existent “skinny pipes.”

Meanwhile other countries are stepping up, and making the adoption of true broadband fiber connections affordable for their citizens. The government of New Zealand for example, reduced the risk of up-front investment in fiber networks by financing the building of basic network infrastructure. The final connections to homes are built by private business entities, who then buy back the network from the proceeds of user’s subscription costs. As the government’s investment was returned, it reinvested those funds in further expansion of the country’s fiber infrastructure – creating an economic stimulation and a self-perpetuating roll out of a world-class broadband access for its entire population with a very fast adoption of fiber-to-the-home services.

The shifting economic forces of the new knowledge based economy and slow adoption of access by large segments of society may signal a need for Americans to rethink policy with regard to broadband internet access. As always there is plenty of room for American capitalism in the future of connectivity, but that presupposes a responsibility among business interests to produce adequate and affordable options for consumers in order to avoid creating a competitive disadvantage for ourselves as a nation in the global marketplace.

NationalNet continues to invest heavily in the future and takes significant steps each quarter to maintain the competitive advantage our fully managed hosting and server collocation clients have over other companies. Our own efforts are always subject to the greater environmental question of how many people have access to the internet and how robust that access becomes. Bringing modern advancements to consumers requires a modern infrastructure that can be relied on for the speed, throughput and efficiency that digital content, products and services necessitate. Hopefully the governmental and corporate entities in a position to roll out these advancements all understand how vital their contributions are to the future of our great nation

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28
Aug
2013

Mark Zuckerberg’s Plan To Provide Universal Internet Access

by Administrator

Today, approximately 2.5 billion people have some form of internet access. Mark Zuckerberg, founder and CEO of Facebook, recently announced the launch of internet.org, a consortium of handset makers including Nokia, Samsung, Ericcson), browser companies like Opera, infrastructure companies such as Qualcomm and MediaTek. Declaring internet connectivity a human right, the internet.org alliance has the stated goal of making internet access available to the remaining 5 billion people on the planet.

The group intends to drastically cut the cost of basic internet service, especially for mobile phone data plans in developing countries. A key part of lowering costs will be reducing the bandwidth required for Facebook and other apps by simplifying the applications so they run more efficiently and by improving the components of phones and networks so that they transmit more data while using less power. In an interview in Wired Magazine, Zuckerberg talks about reversing the course of ever-increasing bandwidth requirements for applications like Facebook to make it more affordable for those in developing nations. While phones have gotten to be relatively inexpensive, the cost of data plans remains unaffordable for many: “In the beginning of this year, the average person used about 12 megabytes for the Android app on Facebook, and I think over the next couple of years, we’re going be able to get that down to one megabyte a day, with very few changes. Since one megabyte is still too much for a lot of the world, the question becomes, Can you get to half a megabyte or a third?”

Zuckerberg foresees the cooperation of members of the consortium leading to a text-based internet service that would provide the equivalent of an “Internet Dial Tone” for free. A minimum level of service that would include access to useful information like Wikipedia, search engines, social networks, weather access, and commodities prices for anyone anywhere anytime.

Declaring that this project is simply too large to be undertaken as a strictly philanthropic venture, internet.org attempts to marry the greater societal good with the demands of capitalism, and it might very well work. All of the tech companies in this sector are under pressure to find long term growth, and the developed markets are at near-saturation, making emerging markets an attractive avenue for the kind of growth Wall Street demands.

Internet.org is not the only entity experimenting with this business model either. Google, which is notably absent from the coalition has its own program that its testing with phone carriers in developing countries, giving users free access to Gmail, search and the first page clicked through from a search’s results. Twitter, which is currently preparing for its IPO, has set up deals with 250 mobile companies in more than 100 countries to offer free Twitter access.

From within the coalition, Nokia recently ran an experiment with Facebook and the Mexican phone carrier TelCel where they bundled Facebook with some of Nokia’s Ahsa phones. The resultant rise in sales of those phones made such a good business case for the practice that they’ve expanded the program to Africa and India, partnering with Bharti Airtel, one of the larger mobile carriers that serves both the continent and subcontinent.

On the infrastructure front, Qualcomm has created new chip designs to maximize phone battery life and worked out compression schemes that reduce the amount of data needed to transmit a video significantly. They’ve also come up with miniature cell service transmitters to extend the reach of mobile networks with devices that are the size of WiFi routers rather than the large, expensive, tower-mounted arrays that are prevalent in the developed world.

In an article in the New York Times, it’s pointed out that the profit potential of connecting more people to the internet is already obvious in places like the Philippines, where the second-largest mobile phone company, Globe Telecom, used free Twitter, Facebook and Google access as a promotion to increase the number of its 37 million users who also subscribe to a mobile data plan to 20 percent from virtually zero in just two years. “Once you’re connected, you’re connected, and you don’t want to look back,” said Peter Bithos, Globe’s senior adviser for consumer business.

Answering critics that say that this is merely an expansion plan for Facebook, wearing a humanitarian cloak, Zuckerberg replies: “Of course, we want to help connect more people, so theoretically we do benefit from this. But that criticism is kind of crazy. The billion people who are already on Facebook have way, way more money than the next 6 billion people combined. If we wanted to focus on just making money, the right strategy for us would be to focus solely on the developed countries and the people already on Facebook, increasing their engagement rather than having these other folks join. Our service is free, and there aren’t developed ad markets in a lot of these countries. So for a very long time this may not be profitable for us. But I’m willing to make that investment because I think it’s really good for the world.”

NationalNet continues to pursue technological advancements in the area of collocated hosting, data center infrastructure upgrades and optimization techniques that improve efficiency. In the recent past, bandwidth costs have dropped considerably and significantly lowered the hosting expense of most online entities – but these developments show that reducing bandwidth consumption is important for reasons that go beyond lowering a monthly hosting statement. In the very near future, maximizing revenue for any web service or digital product may be as much about delivering it in the fewest data packets possible as it ever was about reliable up-time or anything else.

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21
Aug
2013

Judge Rules IP Masking is a Violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

by Administrator

Judge Rules IP Masking is a Violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act

 

In a court decision with potentially far-reaching unintended consequences, US District Judge Charles Breyer has ruled that circumventing an IP address blockade to connect to a website when you have been properly notified that the website wants you to stop visiting it is a violation of the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act (CFAA).

 

Passed by Congress in 1984, the highly controversial CFAA law was intended to combat hackers, attaching both civil and criminal penalties to enhance the government’s ability to prosecute anyone who accesses computers to steal information, or to disrupt and destroy computer functionality. More recently, the government has interpreted the anti-hacking provisions to include seemingly mundane and commonplace activities that may go so far as violating a corporate website’s terms of service or a company’s computer usage policy.

 

This particular case is involves 3Taps, an aggregator of Craigslist ads that allowed users to search all of Craigslist’s sites nationwide rather than checking each individual local Craigslist when searching for an item. While 3Taps may argue sites like theirs are providing a service to sellers and buyers, indirectly increasing the value of Craigslist’s ads, the management of Craigslist didn’t see it that way. After sending a cease-and-desist letter to 3Taps, Craigslist blocked the IP addresses 3Taps used to access Craigslist sites.

 

3Taps allegedly circumvented the blockade by masking their IP addresses, and continued scraping ads from the site, resulting in a lawsuit filed by Craigslist claiming a violation of the CFAA. In it’s argument before the court, Craigslist asserted that by spoofing their IP address, 3Taps committed “access without authorization,” which seems to be interpreted as the online equivalent of breaking and entering. 3Taps took the position that the sites were publicly accessible by anyone with an internet connection and that there was no legal framework for a site owner to have a legally enforceable revocation of access for any specific user of a website.

 

While friend-of-the-court briefs filed by technologists indicated that simple IP address masking should not constitute hacking, the judge disagreed, and stated in his decision that he did not think ordinary people mask their IP addresses – especially after being sent a cease and desist letter to put them on notice that their access invitation had been revoked. Some argue in the wake of the decision that courts fail to understand just how easy and widespread the practice of IP masking is on the internet these days as people seek to maintain some level of anonymity from advertisers and spying eyes. The result of this decision is that 3Taps will face a civil damages trial unless they settle with craigslist out of court, and they may also face criminal prosecution under the law as well though experts argue that is unlikely in this instance. 

 

Meanwhile, in an official statement issued on their website, 3Taps has indicated that they will continue to aggregate Craigslist ads, stating: “Although craigslist may use the CFAA as currently interpreted to prevent 3taps from accessing its servers, 3taps can continue to function because directly accessing these servers is only one of three ways in which the information in question can be obtained. The other two, crowd-sourcing and public search results, require no such access to craigslist’s servers and thus obviate the need to engage in conduct that may implicate the CFAA. Going forward, 3taps will operate based on its understanding that if it does not access craigslist’s servers, it has a right to collect public information originally posted on craigslist’s website.”

 

The larger implication of this ruling is that relatively average users, now have a ruling that sets precedent in some jurisdictions, that if you do something to access a site by circumventing an IP block, whether to access a forum that has blocked your IP address, or something spoof your IP address to watch shows on the BBC’s Online UK-only iViewer from the United States to watch the latest episodes of Downton Abbey or Doctor Who, you may now be subject to the same harsh penalties intended for criminal hackers which include potential prosecution under the CFAA.

 

NationalNet will continue to monitor this ongoing litigation and work with our clients to secure their sites from malicious access by hackers while delving more deeply into the privacy implications that a ruling of this sort may have on the evolution of the internet itself, and the ways people use it in the months or years to come.

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15
Aug
2013

Is the End of the Desktop OS in Sight?

by Administrator

Is the End of the Desktop OS in Sight?

First developed by the engineers at Xerox PARC, apocryphally ‘stolen’ and improved by Steve Jobs and Apple before finally being brought to everyday use by Microsoft Windows, the Graphical User Interface (GUI) and underlying desktop Operating System have become synonymous with computers. GUI proliferation ended tedious typing of arcane code and democratized computer use to the point that even an 80 year old techno-phobic person is now capable of sending email and using online banking.

The development of the desktop operating system is perhaps the most important development in the history of consumer computing. Regardless of what operating system you use, be it Windows, OSX or a Linux-based systems, the same point and click principles apply – but regardless of their similarities in concept, the underlying code for all of these systems is entirely different, making cross-platform computing a complicated and often impossible endeavor that requires developers to write multiple versions of the same product software from scratch to fit each device and OS individually. Perhaps worst of all, good devices that lack market share are often overlooked by developers and fail to ever gain traction in the market because they never reach critical mass from an available software perspective, which stagnates innovation and leaves only a few entrenched platforms to serve a customer base that thirsts for more innovation.

The rise of mobile devices has only made matters more complicated with many different operating systems in play. Sure, one option is to seal yourself off in an all-Apple or All-Microsoft walled garden, but for most people this really isn’t a desirable decision. The annoyance and lost productivity resulting from trying to remember the idiosyncrasies and keyboard shortcuts of the OS you’re using at the moment and the non-compatibility of software across various platforms used by business colleagues frustrates users and stifles team productivity. These hurdles may soon be cleared, thanks in large part to the increasing capabilities of web-based computing products and a move toward generic industry standards like HTML5 which may lead to the demise of proprietary desktop operating systems and a new era of brand-agnostic connectivity.

While Apple and Microsoft have vested interests in keeping their operating systems alive and viable, the seeds for their coming irrelevance have already been planted. HTML5 is quickly becoming the standard for delivering web-based applications, and the beauty of these programs is that they look and work the same way, regardless of what platform is underlying the content. Cloud-based computing is moving user data and software applications online – with a soon approaching moment when people will have ubiquitous access to their data from any terminal, be it a PC running Microsoft Windows, an Apple running OSX, or a smartphone running Google Android – in essence removing the operating system from the equation in much the same way that phone carriers have seen their role reduced to providing relatively generic bandwidth for all devices.

As we’ve become accustomed to having access to our applications wherever and whenever we want them to be available, the question looms: Why shouldn’t we simply access our own personalized web-based desktop? Online computing, storage, data access and hosting have become as fast and in many ways even more reliable than a personal physical hard drive in a computer under your desk. Browser-based interfaces will offer a level of consistency and ubiquity that proprietary hard drive based OS software simply can not match.

Microsoft made an attempt at unifying all of their disparate operating systems with Windows 8, giving it the same look across all devices, and eliminating the system’s iconic “Start” button, but the results were confusing to many users and complaints eventually brought Windows 8.1 which restored the old Start button. The idea behind it was good, but in the end the failure of this approach was that it was merely a cosmetic attempt to unify the systems, rather than a true integration of all devices from your cell phone to your tablet to your car console, gaming system, Facebook account, home automation devices and beyond. Unifying ‘all things Microsoft’ simply doesn’t have the same power or same allure that unifying ‘all things digital’ will have on the mass market.

Google is already delivering web-based spreadsheets, word processing and an app launcher built into it’s Chrome browser. Dropbox is allowing users to move and store files across platforms, and the moment seems reminiscent of the time when computer scientists were able to get things done but the world lacked the point and click capability that would eventually drive the entire consumer market to adopt powerful new technologies.

The move to web-based computing will reduce costs for corporate IT departments, vastly simplify the process of updating software or hardware, and usher in a new era of fully managed computing that gives users the freedom to utilize their skills and talents while having technical experts quietly keeping the platform in proper working order behind the scenes. NationalNet is at the forefront of the Fully Managed Hosting and Collocated Server markets with a state of the art data center that provides efficient, high speed connectivity and the best possible level of data reliability. Those exact same skills may soon be put to use by individual people collocating their personal computing power and seeking fully managed computing services which leave the technical aspects of software compatibility, virus protection, data security, hardware integration and everything else ‘under the hood’ to a team of IT experts who can be counted on to keep their entire suite of applications optimized at all times.

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08
Aug
2013

The Push for Unlocked Mobile Devices in the US Takes An Environmental Twist

by Administrator

you cannot unlock your phoneThe Push for Unlocked Mobile Devices in the US Takes An Environmental Twist

The Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act which would decriminalize unlocking your handset was approved by the House Judiciary Committee yesterday. The bill will now move to the house floor and an uncertain future.

While unlocking a mobile handset is legal everywhere in the world other than the United States, opposition is lining up along the expected lines, namely “Big Copyright” a consortium made up of the movie and music industry and manufacturers, who as more and more devices include software, are pressing owners of their products to use factory authorized settings, even going so far as to sue those who repair their devices for copyright infringement declaring the entry of a password to enter diagnostics is an allegedly unauthorized reproduction of their intellectual property.

Environmentalists have recently entered the fray on the side of unlocking these devices as over one billion cell-phones are manufactured each year, and the environmental impact from the mining the rare metals, consumption of power and massive pollution from discarded older phones becomes noteworthy. From the reported 165 pounds of raw material to the vast majority of the power associated with a given device being consumed in its manufacture, not in its use – even electronics recyclers have already started mass-shredding functional phones from the United States because they can’t resell them internationally, and E-waste is a well known toxic pollutant with long term repercussions on the global environment.

Currently, 65% of all cell phones collected in the U.S. are refurbished or repaired, then resold. The catch is that those refurbishing the devices must unlock them in order to put them back on the market again, which involves breaking the existing law. Pro-copyright interests have argued that the ban protects their intellectual property, but legal unlocking gives consumers the ability to shop for the best service for their needs once they’ve satisfied the terms of their purchase contract with their carrier. The unlocking lobby argues that picking the digital lock that was placed on the phone doesn’t steal intellectual property, it’s making a modification to a product that is already owned outright by the consumer at that point.

Even AT&T and Verizon’s lobbying group, the CTIA, has thrown in the towel on this issue and issued a letter in favor of legal unlocking to the Judiciary Committee. If this phone unlocking legislation actually resolves the issue, legalizing phone portability may very well have a comparable impact to the earlier move by Congress mandating cell phone number portability, which was fought by the industry until its passage in 2003, and which finally freed consumers to keep their phone numbers if the decided to switch carriers.

Fostered by the collaborative sharing of knowledge made possible by the internet, more and more people are becoming tinkerers and the DIY cottage economy is better for it. Imagine where computers would be today if PC owners were not allowed to load unauthorized software on their own machines, modify hardware or alter their own computers under penalty of law after purchasing them.

 

As technology continues to evolve, the convergence of environmental impact, intellectual property rights and economics will continue to be a source of friction that stalls innovation and holds back consumer choice. NationalNet has focused considerable resources in terms of design and implementation to reduce our own environmental footprint by reducing power consumption.   We also recycle older servers and hard drives rather than just tossing them in a dumpster.  Finally, we are always seeking the most innovative ways to provide the best quality service for our clients using dedicated servers and fully managed hosting options that put customer choice at the top of our priority list.

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