The Day MP3 Died

On April 23, 2017, Technicolor’s mp3 licensing program for certain mp3 related patents and software of Technicolor and Fraunhofer IIS terminated. News release here.

Although I cut most of my CD library in AAC — somewhat redundant now that I rarely even see a CD anymore — I still cut mp3s when working on studio projects. I suspect the format will live on for many, many years.

The Government Gets My Mail

This just came in from Reuters:

Yahoo Inc last year secretly built a custom software program to search all of its customers’ incoming emails for specific information provided by U.S. intelligence officials.

By coincidence, I happened to be on the Office of the Privacy Commissioner of Canada’s website reading about how to protect my privacy online.

Seems like that is a lost cause.

The U.S. government is reading everything. Wikipedia has a recent list of all of their mass surveillance programs:

  • Boundless Informant: A system deployed by the National Security Agency to analyze global electronic information. In March 2013, Boundless Informant gathered 14 billion data reports from Iran, 6.3 billion from India, and 2.8 billion from the United States.
  • BULLRUN: a highly classified U.S. National Security Agency program to preserve its ability to eavesdrop on encrypted communications by influencing and weakening encryption standards, by obtaining master encryption keys, and by gaining access to data before or after it is encrypted either by agreement, by force of law, or by computer network exploitation (hacking).
  • Carnivore: A system implemented by the Federal Bureau of Investigation that was designed to monitor email and electronic communications. Apparently replaced by commercial software such as NarusInsight.
  • Comprehensive National Cybersecurity Initiative
  • DCSNet: The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI)’s point-and-click surveillance system that can perform instant wiretaps on any telecommunications device located in the United States.
  • Fairview: A mass surveillance program directed at foreign mobile phone users.
  • Financial Crimes Enforcement Network: A bureau of the Department of the Treasury that collects and analyzes financial transactions in order to combat financial crimes.
  • ICREACH: Surveillance frontend GUI that is shared with 23 government agencies, including the CIA, DEA, and FBI, to search illegally collected personal records.
  • Magic Lantern: A keystroke logging software deployed by the FBI in the form of an e-mail attachment. When activated, it acts as a trojan horse and allows the FBI to decrypt user communications.
  • Main Core: A personal and financial database storing information of millions of U.S. citizens believed to be threats to national security. The data mostly comes from the NSA, FBI, CIA, as well as other government sources.
  • MAINWAY: NSA database containing metadata for hundreds of billions of telephone calls made through the four largest telephone carriers in the United States.
  • MUSCULAR: Overseas wiretapping of Google’s and Yahoo’s unencrypted internal networks by the NSA.
  • MYSTIC is a voice interception program used by the National Security Agency.
  • Nationwide Suspicious Activity Reporting Initiative: Under this government initiative, a Suspicious Activity Report (SAR) may be filed by law enforcers, public safety personnel, owners of critical infrastructure or the general public.
  • NSA ANT catalog: a 50-page document listing technology available to the United States National Security Agency (NSA) ANT division to aid in cyber-surveillance.
  • PRISM: A clandestine national security electronic surveillance program operated by the United States National Security Agency (NSA) which can target customers of participating corporations outside or inside the United States.
  • Room 641A: A telecommunication interception facility operated by AT&T for the U.S. National Security Agency.
  • Sentry Eagle: efforts to monitor and attack an adversary’s cyberspace through capabilities include SIGINT, Computer Network Exploitation (CNE), Information Assurance, Computer Network Defense (CND), Network Warfare, and Computer Network Attack (CNA). The efforts included weakening US commercial encryption systems.
  • Special Collection Service (SCS): A black budget program that is responsible for “close surveillance, burglary, wiretapping, breaking and entering.” It employs covert listening device technologies to bug foreign embassies, communications centers, computer facilities, fiber-optic networks, and government installations.
  • Stellar Wind (code name): The open secret code name for four surveillance programs.
  • Tailored Access Operations: Intelligence-gathering unit of the NSA that is capable of harvesting approximately 2 petabytes of data per hour.
  • Terrorist Finance Tracking Program: A joint initiative run by the CIA and the Department of the Treasury to access the SWIFT (Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication) transaction database as part of the Bush administration’s “Global War on Terrorism”. According to the U.S. government, its efforts to counter terrorist activities were compromised after the existence of the Terrorist Finance Tracking Program was leaked to the media.
  • Turbulance (NSA): Turbulence is a United States National Security Agency (NSA) information-technology project started circa 2005. It was developed in small, inexpensive “test” pieces rather than one grand plan like its failed predecessor, the Trailblazer Project. It also includes offensive cyberwarfare capabilities, like injecting malware into remote computers. The U.S. Congress criticized the project in 2007 for having similar bureaucratic problems as the Trailblazer Project.
  • US Intelligence Community (IC): A cooperative federation of 16 government agencies working together, but also separately, to gather intelligence and conduct espionage.
  • Utah Data Center: The Intelligence Community’s US$1.5 billion data storage center that is designed to store extremely large amounts of data, on the scale of yottabytes.
  • X-Keyscore: A system used by the United States National Security Agency for searching and analysing internet data about foreign nationals.

Canada also spies on its citizens with a massive secret surveillance program.

Samsung Galaxy Note 7

FirePhone

First it was the Samsung Galaxy Note 7 catching fire.

Then it was Samsung washing machines exploding.

Looks like Samsung tablets can also generate a bit of heat.

Some of my friends asked me for my thoughts about the issues at Samsung.

I think a few Samsung executives should be fired.

To capitalize on the new design feature, I think Samsung should rename the Galaxy Note 7 to the Galaxy Supernova.

I do agree that the sales of Samsung devices have ignited over the past few months.

I think Samsung should take over the manufacturing of the Kindle Fire for Amazon.

And, finally, I think that Samsung’s warranty statement should be revised to the following:

The warranty on your Samsung product does not cover the following: Accidents, fire, Acts of God, fire, lightning, fire, water, fire, public disturbances, fire, improper ventilation, fire, voltage fluctuations, fire or any cause beyond the control of Samsung such as fire.

I’m here all week.

When Your Boss Is An Algorithm

UberEats

A friend passed me this story which reads in part:

This protest outside the UberEats office in south London on August 26 is one of the first industrial disputes to hit the city’s so-called gig economy. It is a strange clash. These are workers without a workplace, striking against a company that does not employ them. They are managed not by people but by an algorithm that communicates with them via their smartphones. And what they are rebelling against is an app update.

I have made the observation that future society could be divided into three classes:
  1. Those that own and control capital (owners of the algorithms)
  2. Those that tend to and build the algorithms for the capitalists (technocrats)
  3. Those that compete for lousy wages to serve the capitalists and the technocrats (the other 99%)

That might be a very frightening society.

The Self-driving Car

Cars

From I, Cringely:

… cars could be upgraded to self-driving through aftermarket upgrades, which is how they did it in 1995. Truly autonomous cars, though, you have to build those babies from scratch.

So everyone is going to need a new car.

Mandatory replacement is a glorious thing for manufacturers. It’s like that box of baking soda in the back of your refrigerator that you are supposed to throw away every 30 days. The golden era of the record business was when vinyl gave way to CDs and we all paid again to buy the same stuff we already owned. It happened again when we converted our VHS tape libraries to DVDs and to some extent when we gave up physical media for iTunes.

It’s a glorious thing, the prospect of selling 200 million brand new cars and trucks over a 2-3 year period. And it’s coming, it’s absolutely coming.

Pokemon Go

Go

Nintendo’s Pokemon Go-fueled stock rise just came to an abrupt halt.

A bubble? An abrupt halt? Say it isn’t so. I thought buying Nintendo would be as secure as buying Toronto real estate. The price has to keep going up.

Go, Pokemon, Go!

Robots

Robots

The Brookfield Institute for Innovation and Entrepreneurship sent me a copy of their latest report on the impact of automation on Canadian jobs.

The report, entitled The Talented Mr. Robot: The Impact of Automation on Canada’s Workplace, attempts to look at the Canadian job market over the next 10 to 20 years:

The report indicates that nearly 42 per cent of the Canadian labour force is at a high risk of being affected by automation – the replacement of workers by technology and computerization – in the future. For years, automation has been restricted to routine, manual tasks. The more recent rise of artificial intelligence and advanced robotics means that automation is now entering the realm of cognitive, non-routine tasks and occupations…

I have posted about this before here. The folks at Citi produced an exceptional report along similar lines. You can download their pdf here.

I suspect the transition to fewer jobs for highly skilled people may not end all that well. We are already starting to see what happens when a large part of the population becomes marginalized in terms of employment opportunities.