Month of July, 2007
I have a bunch of tabs open of boingboing posts that I want to share, but it's been such a hectic day (I invited Rick Falkvinge of the Swedish Pirate party to give a talk today at my library!) so I think I'll just list them and let you all sort them out.
- Peer to Patent: keeping the Patent Office honest with community review
- Amazon will distribute the US National Archive on DVD
- NY Public Library giving away free public domain books-on-demand
- Pirate Party founder at Stanford (I'll post the video soon. W00t!)
- Bruce Schneier interviews TSA head Kip Hawley
- Data mining prompted fight over NSA domestic spying program (here's a login-free link to the NYT article)
Now if THIS doesn't convince you that a) blogs are incredibly useful tools for disseminating information and b) boingboing should be read several times a day as a matter of course then I don't know what will convince you. Happy reading :-)
- Florida voting machines can be hacked, by Marc Caputo, Miami Herald, Jul. 31, 2007.
Reversing an unofficial policy of denial, the Florida Secretary of State's office has conducted an elections study that confirmed Tuesday what a maverick voting chief discovered nearly two years ago: Insider computer hackers can change votes without a trace on Diebold optical-scan machines.
Most vote machines lose test to hackers (California)
This documentary exposes the vulnerability of electronic voting machines. The film follows investigative journalist Bev Harris as she investigates the security and accuracy of electronic voting systems. It's 1hr 22 minutes so perhaps this will be 2 lunchtime listens.
According to the Future Digital System blog, FDSys is ingesting a full run of Statutes at Large from the Library of Congress.
The scanned files take up 1.4TB worth of storage space and "The next step is for GPO to assess the content and determine whether the content complies with GPO specifications and create access derivatives (including OCR text) of the content."
People who are considering LOCKSS boxes to store federal content shouldn't blanch at the 1.4TB figure for Statutes at Large. Generally speaking, scanned files (which are images) are much larger than born digital content. For example, GPO deposited a year's worth of 10 Federal born-digital e-journals during their LOCKSS pilot. These 10 "journal-years"" worth of content took up 900MB or roughly 0.9 GB. At that rate, we could have harvested these 10 journals for over 250 years before filling up our 250GB hard drive. Of course, we'd need to upgrade our hard drives well before that.
Having said that, it will be interesting to see what sort of uses that GPO can put this material to.
Deep packet inspection meets 'Net neutrality, CALEA
By Nate Anderson | Published: July 25, 2007 - 11:10PM CT
Details the promise and peril of a new technology called "Deep Packet Inspection." On the plus side large-scale deployment of this technology might well be able to make large scale denial of service attacks a thing of the past and provide robust virus protection to all.
As this article indicates, this comes with a downside:
Looking this closely into packets can raise privacy concerns: can DPI equipment peek inside all of these packets and assemble them into a legible record of your e-mails, web browsing, VoIP calls, and passwords? Well, yes, it can. In fact, that's exactly what companies like Narus use the technology to do, and they make a living out of selling such gear to the Saudi Arabian government, among many others.
According to the article, this technology can also allow ISPs to determine who can access what, as shown by this example from Great Britain:
What that means in this is that you pay by the gigabyte and by the service. Plans start at Â£9.99 (around $20) a month for just 1GB of data, though use after 10 PM appears not to count for this quota. The lowest price tier also does not support gaming and places severe speed controls on FTP and P2P use (allowing only 50Kbps at peak periods). Plus.net says that the lowest tier will not work adequately with online games or corporate VPNs. Paying Â£29.99 (around $60) a month provides 40GB of data transfer and fast P2P and FTP speeds, along with 240 VoIP minutes from the company. All of these tiers feature downloads speeds of up to 8Mbps.
As Congress and the Government Printing Office insist on moving from a custody model (libraries have publications housed locally) to an access model (we link to the Future Digital System), librarians have an obligation to consider what will happen to users if we move from our current net neutrality to a model facilitated by the software described above. Do we think its ok for the government to have a complete record of who is accessing what publications? Are we prepared to turn users away when our ISP informs us that our monthly download limit has been reached? What happens when GPO reaches its Internet quotas in a future world where the government purchases Internet access from private providers?
It doesn't have to be this way. Support Net Neutrality. Educate yourself about digital library technologies and help build the geographically distributed federal depository library system of the future.
Thanks to the folks at Current Cites for pointing out this article.
Things are changing. The old ways of thinking about "government information" are becoming obsolete at Internet Speed. Check out this:
- Dick Durbin embraces community to help draft broadband legislation. David All, July 31, 2007.
"I'm a Republican, so I must say I was somewhat shocked when I heard that
Democratic Senator Dick Durbin was going to be posting at the popular
conservative outpost, Redstate, about how best to write legislation for a
national broadband strategy. But he has....[I]sn't it great that citizens now have the same access to the process as the lobbyists?"
- Legislation 2.0: A conversation with RedState. Dick Durbin, July 31, 2007.YouTube
"I think this is a unique experiment in transparent government and an
opportunity to demonstrate the democratic power of the internet. If weÂ¹re
successful, it could become a model for the way legislation on health care,
tax policy or education is drafted in the future."
- What should we include in our national broadband strategy?, Dick Durbin, Redstate.
- Amazon to Copy and Sell Archives' Footage, by Michael E. Ruane, Washington Post July 31, 2007 pC01.
The National Archives and Records Administration (NARA) has a new agreement with Amazon.com to reproduce and sell copies of thousands of historic films from NARA's collections. Unlike the controversial deal that the Smithsonian made with Showtime, which gave Showtime "semiexclusive" rights to Smithsonian content, the NARA deal with Amazon is "non-exclusive." NARA will get a digitized "preservation copy" of content that CustomFlix processes.
This is surely a mixed blessing. On the one hand, we'll have better access to more content for more people and NARA gets some digital conversion done.
On the other hand, It is not yet clear which content will be made more accessible and which will not. Almost certainly, we'll see a preference for that which has commercial value rather than scholarly value. In addition, "access" will be for a fee and not free and, presumably, the fees will not be based on "cost recovery" but on profit.
Nina Gilden Seavey, an Emmy-winning filmmaker and director of the Documentary Center at George Washington University notes the reason for this kind of outsourcing and commercialization.
"Ultimately, the accessibility of the collections and the maintenance of the collections has become such a huge burden on the federal government, the question is how to provide some sort of self-sustaining mechanism for use of these collections."
This deal provides one vision of how to provide accessibility and maintenance. Another path would have the government and libraries taking responsibility to preserve such content and make it freely available.
Now are you worried? On Saturday, San Francisco Chronicle staff writer John Wildermuth, in an article entitled, "Most Vote Machines lost test to hackers", described how teams of computer security experts (aka "hackers") hired by the state were able to crack every model of voting machine that they tested -- including Sequoia, Hart InterCivic and Diebold. The UC's report/document dump is now on the CA Secretary of State's site.
This obviously has national implications. Last week, House Majority Leader Steny Hoyer and Rep. Rush Holt of New Jersey advanced H.R. 811, the "Voter Confidence and Increased Accessibility Act of 2007," which amends the Help America Vote Act of 2002 to require a voter-verified permanent paper ballot.
State-sanctioned teams of computer hackers were able to break through the security of virtually every model of Californiaâ€™s voting machines and change results or take control of some of the systemsâ€™ electronic functions, according to a University of California study released Friday. The researchers â€œwere able to bypass physical and software security in every machine they tested,â€ said Secretary of State Debra Bowen, who authorized the â€œtop to bottom reviewâ€ of every voting system certified by the state.
BlackBoxVoting.org posted an open letter to CA Secretary of State Debra Bowen in which BBV board member Jim March said, "Please consider taking more aggressive action. Decertify everything, citing the obvious failure of Federal oversight as the primary cause." Feel free to contact California Secretary of State, Debra Bowen and let her know what you think of electronic voting machines.
What the New York times called the "banal bureaucracy of government information" is the day-to-day responsibility of government information professionals. In the last few years, we've seen more and more cases of the government hiding some of the most useful "banal" information. Here is the most recent example:
- U.S. drops Baghdad electricity reports by Noam N. Levey and Alexandra Zavis, Los Angeles Times, July 27, 2007.
As the Bush administration struggles to convince lawmakers that its Iraq war strategy is working, it has stopped reporting to Congress a key quality-of-life indicator in Baghdad: how long the power stays on.
...The change, a State Department spokesman said, reflects a technical decision by reconstruction officials in Baghdad...