New Internet Monitoring

New Internet Monitoring Law In Russia Guised To Protect Children Could Lead To A New Surveillance State.

Internet freedom in Russia took a hit yesterday, as the Kremlin implemented new online filtering protocols that could result in widespread government monitoring of web traffic — all due to a measure purportedly aimed at protecting Russia’s youth.

This is far from the first time protecting children has been invoked in support of laws requiring a significant online surveillance, just last year the U.S. House considered the Protecting Children from Internet Pornographers Act of 2011, which would have mandated internet service providers (ISPs) to maintain records of everything you do on the Internet every year, and give the government access to the data without a warrant under the same pretenses.

The evolution of the Russian law should make American citizens thankful the U.S. legislation failed: While it originated as a blocking mechanism for obscene content, since passage, Russian courts have said the measure can be used to ban political extremism and critics of President Vladimir Putin’s regime and the Ministry of Communications concluded Deep Packet Inspection (DPI) is the only way to implement it. DPI is a method of data processing involving looking at the details of the packets sent across networks to determine how to process or reroute the information. Logistically, this will require Russia’s ISPs to maintain detailed records of user traffic and would allow the Russian government a potential backdoor into the private lives of Russia’s internet users. As Eric King, head of research at Privacy International explained to Wired, this has some very troubling implications:

“No Western democracy has yet implemented a dragnet black-box DPI surveillance system due to the crushing effect it would have on free speech and privacy… DPI allows the state to peer into everyone’s internet traffic and read, copy or even modify e-mails and webpages: We now know that such techniques were deployed in pre-revolutionary Tunisia. It can also compromise critical circumvention tools, tools that help citizens evade authoritarian internet controls in countries like Iran and China.”

All of this makes DPI sound sinister, and it can be: the late Libyan leader Muammar Qaddafi used DPI to track online dissent in Libya, and has proven a cost effective way for totalitarian regimes to censor and target political opposition. Although, there are legitimate uses — particularly in network protection — most internet freedom advocates are against large scale implementation due to the damage potential abuse would for freedom of speech and privacy rights, especially in nations with poor track records on human rights issues (such as Russia).

However, most ISPs are already keeping tabs on what their subscribers are generally up to online and have the ability to use DPI on case by case basis — and as with much of the technology interacting with personal details, the questions of who has access to what breakdown of information, under what conditions, and with what safeguards to prevent abuse are critical to their responsible use. Even in countries with more respectable track records on these issues than Russia, DPI can cause considerable controversy, such as when it was proposed as part of new cybersecurity protocols in the United Kingdom.

Depending on how Russia’s mandated DPI processing is implemented and utilized, it may serve as a cautionary tale not only about how the justifications for legislation don’t represent their actual applications, but how structured surveillance can stifle the free flow of ideas online.
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Comet

Comet collapse: Deloitte blames internet and lack of first-time home buyers.

Comet has officially collapsed into administration, putting more than 6,000 jobs at risk. Here, Deloitte, which has taken over the running of the business, explains what happened.
Neville Kahn, Nick Edwards and Chris Farrington of Deloitte, the business advisory firm, have today been appointed Joint Administrators to Comet, the electrical retailer.

Comet, which is headquartered in Rickmansworth, operates out of 236 stores across the UK, and employs 6,611 people – a full time equivalent workforce of 4,682 employees.

Like many other retailers, Comet has been hit hard by the uncertain economic environment, slow consumer spending and lack of consumer confidence. The electrical retail sector has been particularly challenging, with fewer people buying big ticket items, and fewer first time property buyers who have historically been an important market for the Company.

Despite significant investment in the business and the efforts of the experienced management team, Comet has struggled to compete with online retailers which have far lower overhead costs and can offer cheaper products.

Against a backdrop of continuing weak sales, and speculation that Comet was being approached by prospective buyers, suppliers have been reluctant to provide credit terms, which has had a negative effect on cash flow. The inability to obtain supplier credit for the peak Christmas trading period, means that the Company had no realistic prospect of raising further capital to build up sufficient stock to allow it to continue trading.
As a consequence of all these factors, the directors of Comet had no choice but to seek Administration.

Neville Kahn, Joint Administrator and restructuring services partner at Deloitte, commented: “Comet has been battling the changing landscape of the electrical retail sector for many years. It has become increasingly difficult for it to compete with online retailers which don’t face the same overheads such as store rents and business rates.

“Our immediate priorities are to stabilise the business, fully assess its financial position, and begin an urgent process to seek a suitable buyer which would also preserve jobs.

“In the meantime, all stores will continue to trade and all employees will continue to be paid. We appreciate the cooperation and support from the management, staff, customers, landlords and suppliers at what is clearly a very difficult time.”

Extended warranties previously purchased are unaffected by the administration and remain valid.

The Right Touch

The Right Touch.

You won’t find me waiting in line today at the Apple store for an iPad mini.
I know many of my friends and colleagues expected I would be there, if not today waiting in line, then shortly thereafter.
Boy, do I have a surprise for them.
I’m not going to buy an iPad mini.
I bought the 5th gen iPod touch instead.

That might seem like crazy talk coming from me, but after lugging electronic devices on my back and around the globe for a number of years, I’ve concluded smaller is better, at least for me.I had the first gen iPod touch, probably my first completely “portable” mini-computer, and I loved it so.

I tried to revive it recently, and of course it seems dog slow now, and a number of the apps couldn’t be upgraded.
But when I thought about those things I really used that device for most — reading, email/calendaring on the road, watching news/videos, playing games — the iPod touch 5th gen just seemed like a much more suitable device for me.

There are some key differences between it and the iPad mini. First, the mini is bigger (7.9 inches), no doubt. So if screen size is key to you, then you certainly have to take that into account.
Remember, for me, smaller was better.

Second, the touch has the same processor as the mini, the A5, and having tested it out in the store, it was plenty fast for the things I wanted to do.

Third, though the screen is smaller on the touch, it IS a retina display, which has to be the most gorgeous screen you’ve ever seen. So, even though smaller is better for me, it’s also crisper in terms of what’s presented on the screen.
And, it fits easily in a coat pocket, back pocket, pretty much anywhere.

And because it supports Bluetooth 4.0, I can easily attach a foldable or remote Bluetooth keyboard and set to work on some serious business right there on the airplane tray without the hassle of someone slamming into it with their seat back, which has happened to me with laptops and a first gen iPad more times than I care to count.

As far as set up is concerned, now that I’m using iCloud, it’s about as simple as you can get. After an initial set up, I synched up with my iCloud account and most all my apps moved over no problemo. I did have to re-enter many of the account IDs/passwords for things like newspaper subscriptions, etc., but if that’s all the trouble I was going to have, no worries.

As for the 5th gen touch, I’ll just say its ridiculously light (so much so I’m afraid I might break the thing, and I’ll be looking for a solid hardshell case like an Otter just in case!), the display is gorgeous (although I haven’t yet played any games), and faster than greased lightning. The battery life is expected to be some seven to eight hours running video, so I have no worries about it fulfilling my needs while traveling (maybe save for LONG international flights).
I explain all this because the best device is the one most suited to YOUR individual use case.
Think long and hard about what you want and need to do with the thing, then go survey the market and find the right device.

The latest and greatest new new thing like the iPad mini is always fun, but you want to make sure it fits the bill before you hand over any of your own to pay for the thing.