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February 11 2013

Wochenrückblick: Videospiele und Kopierschutz, BGH zu Rapidshare, Facebook-Abmahnungen

Der Europäische Gerichtshof muss sich mit Nintendo-Adapterkarten befassen, der Bundesgerichtshof veröffentlicht seine Entscheidung im Fall Rapidshare, ein Gericht erklärt automatisierte Facebook-Abmahnungen zur Impressumspflicht für zulässig. Außerdem im Wochenrückblick: Facebook-Gesichtserkennung, Kommissions-Plan zur „Cybersicherheit”. 

Europäischer Gerichtshof soll über Schutz von Videospielen entscheiden

Der Bundesgerichtshof hat am Donnerstag dem Europäischen Gerichtshof die Frage vorgelegt, nach welchen Regeln sich der Schutz technischer Maßnahmen bei Videospielen richtet. Hintergrund des Falles sind die Speicherkarten für Nintendos portable Spielekonsole Nintendo DS. Auf diesen speziell für Nintendo produzierten Speicherkarten werden Spiele für die Konsole ausgeliefert. So soll verhindert werden, dass die Spiele kopiert und weitergegeben werden können. Ein deutsches Unternehmen bot nun Adapter an, mit denen sich auch normale SD-Karten mit dem Nintendo nutzen lassen.

Rechtlich könnte es sich dabei um eine Vorrichtung zum Umgehen von technischen Schutzmaßnahmen handeln, die nach dem Urheberrechtsgesetz (§ 95a Abs. 3) unzulässig ist. Problem: Die entsprechenden Paragrafen (§§ 95a ff. UrhG) gelten nach eben diesem Gesetz (§ 69a Abs. 5) nicht für Software. Der Euopäische Gerichtshof soll nun entscheiden, ob die Vorschriften zum Schutz von Software auch auf Computerspiele anwendbar sind und damit die Regelungen für sonstige Werkarten (§§ 95a ff.) verdrängt werden.
Ausführlich bei Telemedicus.

BGH-Entscheidung über Rapidshare veröffentlicht

Der BGH hat vergangene Woche seine Entscheidung über die Haftung des One-Click-Hosters Rapidshare veröffentlicht (Urteil v. 12. Juli 2012, I ZR 18/11 – Alone in the Dark). Danach muss Rapidshare nicht nur rechtswidrige Dateien bei Hinweis sperren, sondern darüber hinaus auch technisch und wirtschaftlich zumutbare Maßnahmen treffen, um zu verhindern, dass diese Dateien erneut über die Server des Hosters zum Download angeboten werden. Insbesondere sei es Rapidshare zumutbar, mit Wortfiltern die Dateinamen von Uploads zu überprüfen und manuell Linklisten einschlägiger Webseiten zu prüfen, auf denen rechtswidrige Dateien bei Rapidshare verbreitet werden.
Urteilsbesprechung von Thomas Stadler.
Urteilsbesprechung auf Grundlage der Pressemeldung des BGH bei Telemedicus.
iRights.info: Wie legal sind Filehoster?

Gericht entscheidet pro Impressumspflicht bei Facebook

Wie vergangene Woche bekannt wurde, hat das Landgericht Regensburg Ende Januar über die Impressumspflicht für Facebook entschieden. Danach müssen auch die Fanseiten von Unternehmen bei Facebook ein Impressum vorhalten. Das Fehlen eines solchen Impressums kann demnach als Wettbewerbsverstoß abgemahnt werden. Weitere Besonderheit des Falls: Die Klägerin hatte innerhalb von acht Tagen 181 Unternehmen wegen fehlenden Impressums bei Facebook abgemahnt. Die Verstöße hatte sie über eine eigens entwickelte Software automatisch ermittelt. Dies sei jedoch nicht rechtsmissbräuchlich, so das Landgericht Regensburg. Da der Aufwand für die Ermittlung der Sachverhalte durch die Software verhältnismäßig gering sei, stünde die Abnahmtätigkeit in einem vernünftigen Verhältnis zur übrigen gewerblichen Tätigkeit des Abmahnenden.
Bericht bei Spiegel Online.
Das Urteil vom 31. Januar 2013, Az. 1 HK O 1884/12 im Volltext.

Hamburger Datenschutzbeauftragter stellt Verfahren gegen Facebook ein

Hamburgs Landesdatenschutzbeauftragter Johannes Caspar hat das Verwaltungsverfahren gegen Facebook eingestellt. Caspars Behörde hatte im vergangenen Jahr die Gesichtserkennung beim Upload von Fotos bei Facebook förmlich untersagt. Mittlerweile hat Facebook diese Funktion in Europa jedoch eingestellt und dem Hamburger Datenschutzbeauftragten den Programmcode vorgelegt, mit dem die bisher gewonnenen Daten gelöscht wurden.
Die Meldung bei Heise online.
Pressemeldung des Hamburger Datenschutzbeauftragten

EU-Kommission stellt „Cybersicherheitsplan” vor

Die EU-Kommissarin für die Digitale Agenda Neelie Kroes und EU-Kommissarin für Innenpolitik Cecilia Malmström haben vergangene Woche einen „Cybersicherheitsplan der EU für ein offenes, freies und chancenreiches Internet” vorgestellt. Damit soll die IT-Sicherheit in der Europäischen Union verbessert werden, indem kritische Dienste von staatlichen und privaten Organisationen besser vor Cyberangriffen geschützt werden sollen. Kern des Sicherheitsplans ist ein Entwurf für eine „Richtlinie über Maßnahmen zur Sicherstellung eines hohen gemeinsamen Niveaus an Netzwerk- und Informationssicherheit innerhalb der Union”. Diese sieht unter anderem vor, dass Unternehmen besonders schwerwiegende Sicherheitszwischenfälle an eine nationale Behörde melden müssen, die ggf. weitere Maßnahmen einleiten kann.
Ausführlich bei netzpolitik.org.
„Cybersicherheitsplan der EU für ein offenes, freies und chancenreiches Internet”.

 

Dieser Artikel steht unter der Lizenz CC BY-NC-SA.

February 06 2013

Recht auf Weiterverkauf: VZBV verklagt Spieleanbieter

Der Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband geht gerichtlich gegen Valve vor, den Betreiber der Spieleplattform Steam. Valve verwehre es den Kunden mit einer „Account-Bindung“, Spiele weiterzuverkaufen.

Es ist eine schwierige Rechtsfrage, die der Trend zu online-basierten Spielen aufwirft. Darf der Kunde ein Spiel auch dann weiterverkaufen, wenn er es als Download bezieht und nur in Kombination mit einem Online-Account nutzen kann? Der Verbraucherzentrale Bundesverband (VZBV) meint ja, und hat nun beim Landgericht Berlin Klage gegen den Spieleplattform-Betreiber Valve eingereicht.

Über Valves Steam-Plattform laden Nutzer zahlreiche Spiele herunter – etwa die „Grand Theft Auto“-Reihe, „007: Legends“ oder „Startrek“. Sie müssen die meisten Spiele online über einen Steam-Account registrieren und freischalten – auch dann, wenn sie später im Offline-Modus spielen wollen. Der mitgelieferte Aktivierungsschlüssel des Spiels ist aber in vielen Fällen nur für einen einzigen Nutzer-Account gültig. Und ohne den Account ist die gekaufte Spiel-Software nicht zu gebrauchen. Zugleich verbietet es Valve  den Kunden in seinen Geschäftsbedingungen, ihren Steam-Account an Dritte zu übertragen.

In dieser Konstuktion sieht der VZBV eine unzulässige Beschränkung der Verbraucherrechte. Denn den Kunden werde es faktisch verwehrt, die über die Steam-Plattform bezogenen Spiele weiterzuverkaufen. „Nach Auffassung des vzbv höhlt Valve durch das Verbot der Weitergabe des Benutzerkontos das vom Verbraucher erworbene eigentumsähnliche Recht unangemessen aus“, heißt es in einer Erklärung.

Neue Rechtspraxis nach EuGH-Urteil?

Das „eigentumsähnliche Recht“ sehen die Verbraucherschützer durch ein Urteil des Europäischen Gerichtshofes (EuGH) gestärkt. Der EuGH entschied Mitte 2012: Software darf auch dann weiterverkauft werden, wenn sie als Download erworben wurde. Vor diesem Hintergrund erhofft sich der vzbv eine Neubewertung in der Rechtssprechung. Noch 2010 hatte es der Bundesgerichtshof  für zulässig erklärt, wenn ein für die Nutzung einer Software zwingend erforderlicher Account nicht übertragbar ist. Das Landgericht Berlin muss nun abwägen, ob nach dem EuGH-Urteil die Account-Bindung im konkreten Fall dem Recht auf Weiterverkauf zuwiderläuft.

Juristisches Neuland: Darf man einen iTunes-Account vererben?

Die Frage, wie rechtlich mit bislang unverkäuflichen Online-Accounts umzugehen ist, ist für die cloud-basierte Werknutzung wegweisend. Der Verbraucher darf Spiele, Musik, Texte und Filme weiterkaufen, wenn er sie gepresst auf einen physischen Werkträger (CD-Rom, CDs, Bücher, DVDs) erworben hat. Doch wenn er dieselben Werke über einen Cloud-Dienst nutzt (zum Beispiel iTunes, Amazon Cloud etc.), wird die Weiterveräußerung durch die Anbieter in der Regel unterbunden. Geschäftsbedingungen verbieten es dem Nutzer, seinen Online-Zugang zu den Werken anderen zu veräußern, zu verschenken oder zu vererben. Doch ist diese Ungleichbehandlung legal? Erwirbt der Nutzer nicht auch ein eigentumsähnliches Recht an Werken in der Cloud? Verbraucher und Juristen dürfen auf die künftige Rechtssprechung gespannt sein.

December 24 2012

Four short links: 24 December 2012

  1. Creating The Next Big Thing (Wired) — excellent piece showing Tim’s thinking. Apple. They’re clearly on the wrong path. They file patent suits that claim that nobody else can make a device with multitouch. But they didn’t invent multitouch. They just pushed the ball forward and applied it to the phone. Now they want to say, “OK, we got value from someone else, but it stops now.” That attitude creates lockup in the industry. And I think Apple is going to lose its mojo precisely because they try to own too much.
  2. Nature’s 10 People Who Mattered This Year (Nature) — I’m glad to see The Reproducibility Initiative recognized.
  3. Open Observatory of Network Interferenceto collect high quality data using open methodologies, using Free and Open Source Software (FL/OSS) to share observations and data about the kind, methods and amount of surveillance and censorship in the world.
  4. d0x3d — a network security board game made of win. (via Reddit)

November 30 2012

Four short links: 30 November 2012

  1. Kids Use Minecraft to Design School“Students have been massively enthusiastic, with many turning up early to school to work on their Minecraft designs and they continue to do so at home too.” Also see the school’s blog.
  2. Napster, Udacity, and the Academy (Clay Shirky) — the fight over MOOCs is really about the story we tell ourselves about higher education: what it is, who it’s for, how it’s delivered, who delivers it. [...] The possibility MOOCs hold out isn’t replacement; anything that could replace the traditional college experience would have to work like one, and the institutions best at working like a college are already colleges. The possibility MOOCs hold out is that the educational parts of education can be unbundled. MOOCs expand the audience for education to people ill-served or completely shut out from the current system, in the same way phonographs expanded the audience for symphonies to people who couldn’t get to a concert hall, and PCs expanded the users of computing power to people who didn’t work in big companies.
  3. The Hobbit, Redux — the main programmer for The Hobbit game was a woman. Under-credited, as usual.
  4. Aerial Drones — from the Make magazine holiday gift guide. I want five of everything, please Santa.

November 20 2012

Four short links: 20 November 2012

  1. When Transaction Costs CollapseAs OECD researchers reported recently, 99.5 per cent of reciprocal access agreements occur informally without written contracts. Paradoxically, as competition becomes more intense or ”perfect”, it becomes indistinguishable from perfect co-operation – a neat trick demonstrated in economists’ models a century ago. Commentary prompted by an OECD report on Internet Traffic Exchange. (via Laurence Millar)
  2. Faked Research is Endemic in China (New Scientist) — open access promises the unbundling of publishing, quality control, reputation, and recommendation. Reputation systems for science are going to be important: you can’t blacklist an entire country’s researchers. Can you demand reproducibility?
  3. The Hobbit — ambitious very early game, timely to remember as the movie launches. Literally, no two games of The Hobbit are the same. I can see what Milgrom and the others were striving toward: a truly living, dynamic story where anything can happen and where you have to deal with circumstances as they come, on the fly. It’s a staggeringly ambitious, visionary thing to be attempting.
  4. How to Get Startup Ideas (Paul Graham) — The essay is full of highly-quotable apothegms like Live in the future, then build what’s missing and The verb you want to be using with respect to startup ideas is not “think up” but “notice.”

November 15 2012

Four short links: 15 November 2012

  1. Atkinson Dithering in Real Time — a Processing app that renders what the video camera sees, as though it were an original Mac black and white image.
  2. Patching Binariesa patch for a crashing bug during import of account transactions or when changing a payee of a downloaded transaction in Microsoft Money Sunset Deluxe. Written with no source, simply by debugging the executable as it shipped for XP.
  3. Book Crossing DatasetContains 278,858 users (anonymized but with demographic information) providing 1,149,780 ratings (explicit / implicit) about 271,379 books.
  4. Network Games Market Update (Cartagena Capital) — The myth that players use mobile only ‘on the go’ has been shattered. Smartphones and tablets are now mainstream gaming platforms in their own right and a significant proportion of players play in stationary use case scenarios. Stats abound, including 38% of tablet gamers play more than five hours per week compared to 20% of mobile phone gamer.

November 07 2012

Four short links: 7 November 2012

  1. A Slower Speed of Light — game where you control the speed of light and discover the wonders of relativity. (via Andy Baio)
  2. Facebook Demetricator — removes all statistics and numbers from Facebook’s chrome (“37 people like this” becomes “people like this”). (via Beta Knowledge)
  3. Rx — Microsoft open sources their library for composing asynchronous and event-based programs using observable sequences and LINQ-style query operators.
  4. Typing Karaoke — this is awesome. Practice typing to song lyrics. With 8-bit aesthetic for maximum quirk.

November 06 2012

Four short links: 6 November 2012

  1. Tilt-to-Fly Controller and Copter (Kickstarter) — This looks totally awesome and hackable. The controller has a USB port, the protocol is documented, and you can even connect your own electronics payload, like an Arduino, camera, or homebrewed project to the auxiliary serial (UART + power) port.
  2. The Privacy Game (The Open University) — This game is designed to highlight how privacy and consent work online. Players make decisions about which information they reveal, who they reveal it to and why. For example, you may decide to trade some information for gifts when shopping on a website; or you may decide to keep other information secret when posting on a social networking site. (via BoingBoing)
  3. statwing — very easy analysis and visualization of data.
  4. duraconfa collection of hardened configuration files for SSL/TLS services. It’s easy to reduce crypto effectiveness with crappy choices and options, so it’s good to have solid configurations to go from.

October 24 2012

Four short links: 24 October 2012

  1. Restoration of Defocused and Blurry Images — impressive demos, and open source (GPLv3) code. All those blurred faces and documents no longer seem so safe.
  2. Peter Molyneux Profile in Wired — worth reading for: (a) Molyneux’s contribution to the genre; (b) the inspiration he drew from his satirical Twitter mirror (@PeterMolydeux) is lovely, and (c) the game jams to build the fake Molyneux games, where satire becomes reality. (via Andy Baio)
  3. Trusted Computing for Industrial Control Systems — Kaspersky reveals plans for an open source O/S for industrial control systems, so reactors and power stations and traffic systems aren’t vulnerable to StuxNet-type attacks. (via Jim Stogdill)
  4. Android Virtual Machines — faster emulation for testing than the traditional simulators.

September 07 2012

Four short links: 7 September 2012

  1. GS-Collections (GitHub) — Goldman Sachs open-sourced (Apache-licensed) their Java collection library, full of lambda goodness. No report on whether it requires a 750G bailout.
  2. Learning ZIL — old manual for the interactive fiction programming language that Zork and other Infocom games were written in. Virtual machines on a Z80 processor? They were hardcore before your time.
  3. NZ Government Web Toolkit — information and guides on accessibility standards.
  4. Workshop on Research and Resource Commons in Scientific Research: Final ReportThis diverse group discussed the current state of policy and technology as it relates to a scientific research commons, and identified key opportunities and challenges, as well as next steps, for the scientific community in general and Creative Commons in particular. Wilbanks describes as, “Sort of a wrapup after seven years of SC.” (via John Wilbanks)

September 06 2012

Four short links: 5 September 2012

  1. DIY Spectrometry KitThis open hardware kit costs only $35, but has a range of more than 400-900 nanometers, and a resolution of as high as 3 nm. A spectrometer is essentially a tool to measure the colors absorbed by a material. You can construct this one yourself from a piece of a DVD-R, black paper, a VHS box, and an HD USB webcam.
  2. Mind-Controlled Drones — Chinese demo of EEG to Bluetooth to laptop to wifi to UAV.
  3. Pac-Man in Javascript — in-browser loving recreation of a bunch of original Pac-Man games, with source on github. Cf this article on building Atari Arcade in CreateJS. (via Javascript Weekly)
  4. Source Sans — Adobe’s first open source typeface.

August 06 2012

Wochenrückblick: EA vs. Zynga, Video-Embedding, Apple vs. Samsung

Der Gameentwickler Electronic Arts sieht durch „The Ville“ Urheberrechte an den „Sims” verletzt, ein US-Gericht entscheidet zugunsten des V

Weiterlesen

June 18 2012

Wochenrückblick: Leistungsschutz, GEMA-DDoS, CDU-Thesen

Der Referentenentwurf zum Leistunsschutzrecht ist da, Hausdurchsuchungen nach den DDoS-Angriffen auf die GEMA-Website, die CDU/CSU legt ein Diskussionspapier zum Urheberrecht vor.

Weiterlesen

June 15 2012

Games for Health covers current status of behavior change

I had a chance yesterday to attend one day of the Games for Health conference, which covers one of the fastest-growing areas of mobile apps and an area of innovation that clinicians and policy-makers are embracing with growing enthusiasm.

The gamification of everyday life has become a theme of modern business, as well as public health and other groups interested in motivating people. Fun is now the ally, not the enemy, of intelligence, productivity, social engagement, and well-being. Here are a few existing or upcoming projects that illustrate what games are doing in health care:

  • A researcher developed a game for people with Attention Deficit Disorder that pops distractions up from time to time. If the player gives in to the distraction, the game ends. Over time, as the player gets better at ignoring distractions, they increase in order to test him further. The researcher claims that a few hours of this game eliminated the symptoms of ADD for several months afterward in many children, achieving more than drugs and other therapies.

  • A company is working with the Department of Defense on a game that encourages wounded soldiers to do their physical therapy. Normally, PT is an hour or more of boring, repetitive, painful exercise (I know, having undergone it). The game simply presents you with obstacles that you have to remove by performing one of the motions prescribed by the physical therapist. Thus, it keeps you engaged and randomizes the exercises to keep them fresh.

  • A web-based game asks you to wager game currency on whether an individual is likely to get a particular disease. The game presents you with increasing amounts of information about the relationships between genes and disease. The overall message of the game is that knowing your personal genome doesn't offer much guidance on whether you'll get the disease or how to avoid it.

  • A soccer ball is loaded with a device that measures how much it's moving. From this, a hub can determine how much children are playing and track activity over time.

The last device, clever as it is, arouses depressing thoughts in me. When I was a kid (insert appropriate background music here), nobody had to provide sensors or track our progress to persuade us to take a ball to an empty lot across the street for a game. But that particular lot is now covered with tract housing and the street is so busy that not even the most danger-immune wild child would try to cross it. Meanwhile, parents are afraid (sometimes for good reason and sometimes not) of letting kids wander unattended, and the lures of cable TV and social networks keep them on their couches. So I'm happy to see the digital incentives to increase exercise.

And although gaming hasn't reached the mainstream of health care yet, it's getting there. The Department of Health and Human Services has championed games, and major research centers in health care are developing programs for clinicians.

Getting to the conference at the Hyatt Harborside on the Boston waterfront was the first challenge, and after earning that badge, my next hurdle was avoiding the breakfast buffer. But as an attendee pointed out to me, being physically isolated helped keep people on site and talking to each other. Certainly, the location was spectacular, with lunch on the patio facing a view of the Boston skyline.

Personal control and empowerment in all areas of life were the theme of the day, and were expertly introduced in the opening keynote by well-known researcher Jane McGonigal. She started by reviewing the major regrets people express at the end of their lives. I don't think that I'll regret spending time listening to Jane McGonigal. Although she was pushing the use of her SuperBetter tool for personal growth, the basic principles are easy to follow independently. Pick a difficult but achievable goal that means a lot to you. Measure what you do each week. Enlist friends for support and positive thinking, etc. I'm doing it myself, and maybe next year I won't eat the muffins.

Jane McGonigal's keynote
Jane McGonigal's keynote.

The government is here to help you

There's a fine line between games that promote general health and games that have a special medical purpose. I would guess (as a lay person) that the latter category includes the game to combat ADD and the game to promote PT. And this category is subject to regulation by the FDA. We had a session by lawyer James M. Flaherty, Jr. on this seemingly dull topic, and I'm happy that a lot of people came and treated the subject respectfully. When we trust something with a medical matter, even a game, we need to trust that it will have the desired effect and not harm us.

Thus, if a game is tied to a particular medical device that the FDA is already regulating, the game is subject to the same regulation. That may require the manufacturer to go so far as to arrange a clinical trial and get approval from an Institutional Review Board. A game could also be subject to FDA regulation if the manufacturer claims a medical benefit. (On the other hand, a doctor is free to advise patients to use a game for some medical purpose without triggering FDA regulation.)

FDA regulations are undergoing major changes in this area. A year ago they release a Draft Guidance Document on Mobile Medical Applications, which may be worth consideration by gamers, and some documents on games are likely to follow. Recognizing that current registration procedures are cumbersome, Congress is well along the way to passing legislation that would reform the regulations and ask the FDA to hold discussions with people in the field--discussions that Flaherty urged us all to join. Game-makers also have to start thinking of experiments that can demonstrate the safety and effectiveness of their products.

Too healthy for your own good?

I brought away only a couple dystopic thoughts from Games for Health. One revolved around the privacy worries that accompany every activity modern people do online. Doctors and other professionals engaged in our care are regulated concerning whom the share our information with, and for what purposes. But game manufacturers and sites that offer to track us are not covered by rules like HIPAA. We should check their privacy policies before using them, and be aware that they have lots of incentives to mine the data and use it for marketing and other purposes.

The other, related, worry was about compelled participation. If your employer forces you to enroll in a program to lose weight, or your insurance company bases its premiums on your blood sugar levels, it's a game-changer. One journalist recently compared self-tracking and Quantified Self to B.F. Skinner-like behaviorism, which struck me as absurd because in self-driven health movements the individual is making choices all along. The comparison takes on more relevance if an outsider is trying to control your behavior.

And if external rewards are tied to game-playing, incentives to cheat tail along. People will hack devices to report better results than they actually achieve, hire people to do things that they report themselves doing, etc. Certificates and encryption will have to be put in place. The landscape of health and gamification will be degraded.

Let's reserve these concerns for policy-making, while keeping them in mind while designing games that people use voluntarily and enjoy.

April 19 2012

Four short links: 19 April 2012

  1. Superfastmatch -- open source text comparison tool, used to locate plagiarism/churnalism in online news sites. You can pull out the text engine and use it for your own "find where this text is used elsewhere" applications (e.g., what's being forwarded out in email, how much of this RFP is copy and paste, what's NOT boilerplate in this contract, etc.). (via Pete Warden)
  2. Ten Design Principles for Engaging Math Tasks (Dan Meyer) -- education gold, engagement gold, and some serious ideas you can use in your own apps.
  3. Clustering Related Stories (Jenny Finkel) -- description of how to cluster related stories, talks about some of the tricks. Interesting without being too scary.
  4. Prince of Persia (GitHub) -- I have waited to see if the novelty wore off, but I still find this cool: 1980s source code on GitHub.

March 30 2012

Four short links: 30 March 2012

  1. TypeConnection -- a game that teaches you how to match fonts and why successful matches work. (via Sacha Judd)
  2. Lessons Learned Building Open Source Software (Mitchel Hashimoto) -- the creator of Vagrant talks about the lesson he's learned building a great open source project.
  3. Kickstarter Post-Mortem (Ze Frank) -- excellent dig into the details of his campaign, what worked, what didn't, and how he structured it.
  4. In Lulz We Trust (Gabriella Coleman) -- her excellent Webstock talk about Anonymous.

March 22 2012

Developer Week in Review: The mysterious Google I/O machine

We're in the countdown days to the two big annual developer conferences (not counting OSCON, of course ...). Google I/O will open registration on March 27th, and if past history is any guide, WWDC should also start (and end) signups around the same week. So, get your credit cards warmed up and ready. Last year, both conferences sold out in less than a day (Google I/O in under an hour!).

And speaking of Google I/O

Google IO game

Just what is the purpose of the Rube Goldberg-esque physical puzzle that has gone up on the Google I/O website. Does it have something to do with a puzzle that potential attendees will need to solve to register? Will attendees be flung around from session to session by giant pendulums? Is it all just a cool demo of Chrome? And does it have anything to do with ancient Mayan prophecies?

In any event, it's a fun (if simple) game, worth a few moments of your time, but unlikely to absorb more than 15 minutes of your attention. Now, if they added achievements and a Zombie mode, that might be something.


So much for sandboxing

Reports of a successful exploitation against the Chrome sandbox appeared recently, and now word has broken that a new Java exploit not only breaks out of the sandbox, but manages to install itself into system memory, where it can mess around with privileged processes. Worse, unlike the Chrome exploit, which was reported to Google and not in the wild, this new Java hack is being actively distributed on popular Russian news sites.

Since the entire point of a sandbox is to keep malicious code from getting access to system resources, it is truly disheartening to see how frequently sandboxes are being penetrated these days. If there's one piece of code that needs to be rock-solid, it's the bit that keeps the bad guys from doing bad things. That it fails so often in reality either indicates that developers aren't doing a good job, or that it's a really hard problem and it may be time to rethink sandboxing as a valid security approach.

Go is almost a Go

For those who have been eagerly awaiting Google's attempt to reinvent the wheel new programing language, Go, the wait is almost over, as RC1 has just hit the street. According to the developers, this is very close to what the final 1.0 release will look like. If you've been waiting for a stable version of Go to kick the tires, now is probably the time.

As with most new programming languages, I am maintaining a healthy degree of skepticism as to the long-term viability of Go. This is not because of any inherent faults of the language, but because of the institutional inertia that new languages have to fight to gain acceptance. Whether Google's influence will be enough to get Go ensconced in the pantheon of mainstream languages is yet to be seen.

Fluent Conference: JavaScript & Beyond — Explore the changing worlds of JavaScript & HTML5 at the O'Reilly Fluent Conference (May 29 - 31 in San Francisco, Calif.).

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March 16 2012

Top Stories: March 12-16, 2012

Here's a look at the top stories published across O'Reilly sites this week.

Understanding place and space in a digital Babel
Computational linguist Robert Munro says the subtleties of spatial distinctions are growing in importance as more of the world's digital information takes the form of non-English, unstructured text.

When game development met Kickstarter
Several game developers have decided that game funding and Kickstarter are two great tastes that taste great together.

The state of ebook pricing
Joe Wikert looks at the agency model, efficiencies, fixed pricing and other major trends that will drive ebook pricing in the months ahead.

Foxconn and Ford, Emerson and Jobs
Ralph Waldo Emerson's essay on "Compensation" was a source of inspiration for Henry Ford. It also affirms some of the cosmic truths Steve Jobs held dear.

Three of our best data interviews from Strata CA 12
Featuring: Hadoop creator Doug Cutting on the similarities between Linux and the big data world, Max Gadney from After the Flood explains the benefits of video data graphics, and Kaggle's Jeremy Howard looks at the difference between big data and analytics.


Where Conference 2012 is where the people working on and using location technologies explore emerging trends in software development, tools, business strategies and marketing. Save 20% on registration with the code RADAR20.

March 15 2012

Developer Week in Review: When game development met Kickstarter

Happy day after Pi Day, everyone (except all you Tau fanatics ...). If you happen to live in Louisville, drop by the FedEx facility there and say "hi" to my new iPad. It's been sitting there since last Friday, waiting for the magic hour to take the final leg of its voyage so all of them arrive on the same day (unless you happen to live in Vietnam, evidently ...). My upgraded Apple TV unit is allegedly arriving today, a day early. That's me, single-handedly helping to drive Apple's stock price over $700.

Disintermediation, thy name is Kickstarter

Double Fine Adventure Kickstarter campaign

Kickstarter has gained a reputation for letting small ventures crowdsource their funding, providing an alternative to venture and bank investments for new products and projects. But with a few notable exceptions, it's been fairly small-scale stuff, typically between $10,000 and $100,000 of total funding.

Meanwhile, independent game designers have been hampered by the large costs associated with creating products that can compete with the big players such as EA. With costs for even a relatively simple game running into the millions, there was no practical way to fund great ideas without giving up artistic control to the megacorps.

Now, several game developers have decided that game funding and Kickstarter are two great tastes that taste great together. Crowdfunding for small software projects is old hat for Kickstarter, but the scale that it is now being taken to is rather breathtaking.

It started with the folks over at "Double Fine Adventure" (which includes the talent behind the well-known "Monkey Island" series of games), who set up a Kickstarter project with a $400,000 goal. That money was intended to fund development of a new point-and-click adventure game. To say that it was successful is truly an understatement: The project ended up with $3.3 million dollars in funding.

Brian Fargo, who was executive producer for the hit games "Wasteland" and "Fallout," evidently liked what he saw. He's following the same model for "Wasteland 2." It's already blown past the stated goal of $900,000 (it was just over a million dollars pledged when I wrote this). With 32 days to go in the pledge period, it's almost certain that they will even exceed the $1.5-million-dollar level that will let them create both a Windows and OS X version.

This disintermediated payment model is very exciting, both for software developers who might have a big idea that needs big funds, and potentially for many other areas of creative endeavor. Your favorite show just got canceled? Fund it yourselves! In the mean time, hopefully we'll see more exciting independent games find the budgets they need to become reality.

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And speaking of crowdsourcing

This week marks the end of an era, as Encyclopedia Britannica announced that they will no longer issue a print version of their product (digital products will continue). For people of my age, Britannica was the go-to source when grinding out those high school term papers (along with another dinosaur, the Reader's Guide to Periodical Literature).

What did in the EB was, of course, Wikipedia. For all its warts, there was just no way that a massive tome (both physically and financially) was going to survive in the long term, when a much more up-to-date and comprehensive source was available for free. The Britannica's 120,000 articles just couldn't compete with Wikipedia's nearly three million, especially when the cutting-edge articles in the 2010 EB edition covered such breaking news as the Human Genome Project (completed in, wait for it, 2003).

Purists will bemoan the death of an authoritative, expert-edited research source, but the reality is that expert-curated sources (such as journals) are proving to be as subject to bias and error as crowdsourced ones. I hear horror stories from my wife about how hard it is to get a journal article accepted if it goes against the conventional wisdom, especially since the people reviewing the articles are usually the ones who have the most to lose if it turns out they were wrong. Crowdsourced reference material can suffer from the opposite problem, letting fringe theories creep in around the edges, of course.

In the end, what won the war for Wikipedia (apart from price and convenience) is the sheer volume of information available. Sure, a complete list of the characters appearing in "Firefly" may not end up being crucial to your kid's next senior essay, but life is more than just papers. Wikipedia rules because it has the meaty articles, but also the ones you need on a day-to-day basis.

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February 29 2012

Four short links: 29 February 2012

  1. StuxNet Deep Dive -- extremely technical talk, but this page has a redux. The presenter's thesis, well-argued, is that StuxNet was absolutely aimed specifically at the Natanz facility. (via Chris Douglas)
  2. Smithsonian Digitizing Items (CNet) -- two-person project, only able to do a few items a year, but still an excellent advance. See also Bronwyn Holloway-Smith's art project around artifact replicas.
  3. Collusion (Mozilla) -- have your browser tell you the third parties tracking your web browsing. (via Hacker News)
  4. Survivor (Github) -- HTML5 implementation of an Atari/C64 game. If you wanted to learn how to write HTML5 arcade games, you could do worse than study this project. (via Andy Baio)

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