Archive for the ‘Internet’ Category

The power of search rankings on candidates

March 6th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Robert Epstein at Aeon writes:

Late in 2012, I began to wonder whether highly ranked search results could be impacting more than consumer choices. Perhaps, I speculated, a top search result could have a small impact on people’s opinions about things. Early in 2013, with my associate Ronald E Robertson of theAmerican Institute for Behavioral Research and Technology in Vista, California, I put this idea to a test by conducting an experiment in which 102 people from the San Diego area were randomly assigned to one of three groups. In one group, people saw search results that favoured one political candidate – that is, results that linked to web pages that made this candidate look better than his or her opponent. In a second group, people saw search rankings that favoured the opposing candidate, and in the third group – the control group – people saw a mix of rankings that favoured neither candidate. The same search results and web pages were used in each group; the only thing that differed for the three groups was the ordering of the search results.

To make our experiment realistic, we used real search results that linked to real web pages. We also used a real election – the 2010 election for the prime minister of Australia. We used a foreign election to make sure that our participants were ‘undecided’. Their lack of familiarity with the candidates assured this. Through advertisements, we also recruited an ethnically diverse group of registered voters over a wide age range in order to match key demographic characteristics of the US voting population.

All participants were first given brief descriptions of the candidates and then asked to rate them in various ways, as well as to indicate which candidate they would vote for; as you might expect, participants initially favoured neither candidate on any of the five measures we used, and the vote was evenly split in all three groups. Then the participants were given up to 15 minutes in which to conduct an online search using ‘Kadoodle’, our mock search engine, which gave them access to five pages of search results that linked to web pages. People could move freely between search results and web pages, just as we do when using Google. When participants completed their search, we asked them to rate the candidates again, and we also asked them again who they would vote for.

We predicted that the opinions and voting preferences of 2 or 3 per cent of the people in the two bias groups – the groups in which people were seeing rankings favouring one candidate – would shift toward that candidate. What we actually found was astonishing. The proportion of people favouring the search engine’s top-ranked candidate increased by48.4 per cent, and all five of our measures shifted toward that candidate. What’s more, 75 per cent of the people in the bias groups seemed to have been completely unaware that they were viewing biased search rankings. In the control group, opinions did not shift significantly.

It’s a small sample size but quite an astonishing result. Obviously this is on candidates where nothing else is known on them, but it still shows how powerful search engine results can be.

No tag for this post.

Split decisions on Apple vs FBI

March 3rd, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

A New York judge says the U.S. Justice Department cannot force Apple to provide the FBI with access to locked iPhone data in a routine Brooklyn drug case.

U.S. Magistrate Judge James Orenstein ruled Tuesday (NZ time). The decision follows a California magistrate judge’s order requiring Apple to create software to help the U.S. hack the iPhone of a shooter in the December 2 killing of 14 people in San Bernardino, California.

As different judges have made different rulings it seems inevitable it will be appealed to a Court of Appeals and if they differ, then eventually the Supreme Court.

Australia’s NBN problems

March 2nd, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

News.com.au reports:

On Monday, NBNCo, the Government organisation tasked with creating one of Australia’s most ambitious — and at $46 billion, one of its most expensive — pieces of infrastructure, was forced to deny claims the project was heavily behind schedule.

According to Fairfax Media an “internal progress report” said the project was two-thirds short on its benchmark construction timetable, and had only approved connections to 663,000 premises, rather than the 1.4 million planned.

In a statement, the NBNCo said it had met or exceeded every key target for six quarters in a row. This included having 2.6 million homes “ready for service” by year’s end, one million homes using the network and more than $300 million in revenue.

The company said it would not be drawn on “alleged internal documents” but admitted, “this is an incredibly complex project unlike any infrastructure build anywhere in the world.”

The squabbling over how many homes have been connected and how much the project has cost is all a long way from the Coalition’s glittery launch of its NBN policy in 2013.

United on a Sydney stage, then-Prime Minister Tony Abbott and Mr Turnbull promised that the Coalition’s version of the NBN would, by this year, deliver minimum download speeds of 25 megabits per second, possibly as much as 100mbps, for just $30 billion. Hardly the kind of coin you find down the back of the sofa, but significantly less than the $44 billion Labor was predicting their system would cost.

“There will be billions of dollars that Labor has wasted that we cannot recover but we will save many billions of dollars, at least $60 billion, by taking the approach we have described,” said Mr Turnbull at the time.

Labor’s fibre-to-the-premises (FTTP) proposal would take that fibre all the way to the home while the Coalition’s cost saving was to be made by cutting back on important chunks of infrastructure. Called fibre-to-the-node (FTTN), Turnbull’s NBN would see the fibre cables — a veritable motorway of data — halting on the street corner. The last leg would take all those tunes, films, images and Skype calls down the picturesque side road of the more limited copper network.

 Amazing it is costing them so much. In NZ we’re getting fibre to around 80% of homes (and almost all schools and businesses) for under $2 billion.

$1.24b on IT!

March 1st, 2016 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

The Super City has spent $1.24 billion on IT since it was formed in 2010 – enough money to pay for the council’s half share of the $2.5 billion city rail link.

Among the benefits, Aucklanders can now register dogs online and access nearly 100,000 e-books, but most online experiences with council are still a grind.

Libraries have also provided an e-magazine service called Zinio since 2013, peaking at 65,060 downloads last August. Popular titles include Woman’s Day, Cuisine andThe Economist.

Other improvements to the council’s IT system, such as booking a hall or swimming lesson online, are not far off, say council chief financial officer Sue Tindal and chief operating officer Dean Kimpton.

Let’s see if I have this right. They’ve spent $1.24 billion. That is $1,024 million on IT and you still can’t do online bookings in 2016.

An Airbnb of the funeral industry?

February 24th, 2016 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

NBR reports:

Death is an inevitably morbid conversation and few people like talking about funerals.

Except for businesswoman-turned-charity founder Jude Mannion.

The former boss of companies such as Elizabeth Arden, Kellogg’s New Zealand and Hallmark has founded funeral browsing website Fresh Funerals, which she equates to an ‘Airbnb of the funeral industry.’

Users of Fresh Funerals fill out a form, specifying how they want their funeral to be conducted. Options include whether the deceased should come home or stay at the funeral home; cremation or burial; and arrangements for a casket.

They are then sent quotes by funeral directors. The website is linked to all funeral homes to enable them to quote.

“You can do it at home, online, for the first time in New Zealand. You don’t have to go to the funeral director’s home where you feel out of your comfort zone. You’re in a really strange place and you’ve got a professional saying, ‘tell me what you want,’” Ms Mannion, the founder of The Robin Hood Foundation NZ says.

“I’m hoping that by sitting at home, drinking a bottle of wine with your brothers and sisters you can discuss in a more relaxed way how you want to do the final send-off for the one you love. We only get to do it once.

I like the concept. It is similar to Builders Crack. Your describe what you want, and let companies compete for the work. You make your selection based on price, quality and reviews.

Funeral Directors Association chief executive Katrina Shanks says there’s not necessarily a demand for a website like Fresh Funerals, though, adding that there’s a lot of information on undertakers’ websites already.

She says funeral arrangements can’t simply be chosen by “ticking a box” because there’s substantial emotional attachment, unlike booking a hotel or Uber.

The industry body has commissioned research asking people what they value most in the funeral process. A lot of the feedback involved compassion and sympathy, which Ms Shanks says can’t be catered to by a website. She says funeral directors have the training to understand those skills.

Not everyone wants the same thing. The great thing about the Internet is it allows different business models, and we’ll find out if they succeed.

A ride sharing app

February 22nd, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

The developers of a new ride-sharing app are using Auckland’s bus strikes to launch their product.

The Chariot BETA app is now available for download on Google Play. It is designed to connect users with people driving in the same direction and is promising to transform New Zealanders’ commutes.

An Apple version is still in development.

Chief executive and co-founder Thomas Kiefer said it was exciting to launch the app.

“For roughly the price of a bus fare, people who use Chariot will be able to get a ride from, or give a ride to, someone going in the same direction. It is a convenient, affordable, fun and safe way to get to where you need to go,” he said.

Sounds a great idea. I hope they do an Apple version soon. I’d be keen to use it.

No tag for this post.

Apple resists USG

February 19th, 2016 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports an open letter for Apple CEO Tim Cook:

We were shocked and outraged by the deadly act of terrorism in San Bernardino last December. We mourn the loss of life and want justice for all those whose lives were affected. The FBI asked us for help in the days following the attack, and we have worked hard to support the government’s efforts to solve this horrible crime. We have no sympathy for terrorists.

When the FBI has requested data that’s in our possession, we have provided it. Apple complies with valid subpoenas and search warrants, as we have in the San Bernardino case. We have also made Apple engineers available to advise the FBI, and we’ve offered our best ideas on a number of investigative options at their disposal.

We have great respect for the professionals at the FBI, and we believe their intentions are good. Up to this point, we have done everything that is both within our power and within the law to help them. But now the U.S. government has asked us for something we simply do not have, and something we consider too dangerous to create. They have asked us to build a backdoor to the iPhone.

Specifically, the FBI wants us to make a new version of the iPhone operating system, circumventing several important security features, and install it on an iPhone recovered during the investigation. In the wrong hands, this software — which does not exist today — would have the potential to unlock any iPhone in someone’s physical possession.

The FBI may use different words to describe this tool, but make no mistake: Building a version of iOS that bypasses security in this way would undeniably create a backdoor. And while the government may argue that its use would be limited to this case, there is no way to guarantee such control.

Once such a tool exists, governments all over the world will demand they have access to it. Good on Apple for resisting.

Stephen Fry explains why he has left Twitter

February 19th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stephen Fry on Twitter:

Oh goodness, what fun twitter was in the early days, a secret bathing-pool in a magical glade in an enchanted forest. It was glorious ‘to turn as swimmers into cleanness leaping.’ We frolicked and water-bombed and sometimes, in the moonlight, skinny-dipped. We chattered and laughed and put the world to rights and shared thoughts sacred, silly and profane. But now the pool is stagnant. It is frothy with scum, clogged with weeds and littered with broken glass, sharp rocks and slimy rubbish. If you don’t watch yourself, with every move you’ll end up being gashed, broken, bruised or contused. Even if you negotiate the sharp rocks you’ll soon feel that too many people have peed in the pool for you to want to swim there any more. The fun is over.

To leave that metaphor, let us grieve at what twitter has become. A stalking ground for the sanctimoniously self-righteous who love to second-guess, to leap to conclusions and be offended – worse, to be offended on behalf of others they do not even know.

It has become a home of permanent outrage aided by a media who do daily stories on the basis that somewhere in the world someone has been offended by what someone else said on Twitter.

It’s as nasty and unwholesome a characteristic as can be imagined. It doesn’t matter whether they think they’re defending women, men, transgender people, Muslims, humanists … the ghastliness is absolutely the same.

He is sadly right.

But Stephen, these foul people are a minority! Indeed they are. But I would contend that just one turd in a reservoir is enough to persuade one not to drink from it. 99.9% of the water may be excrement free, but that doesn’t help. With Twitter, for me at least, the tipping point has been reached and the pollution of the service is now just too much.

I used to love Twitter. Now it is very depressing.

Progress on a new cable

February 13th, 2016 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

New Zealand and Pacific Island governments have agreed to work to ensure a new submarine cable is laid across the Pacific, after meeting in Auckland.

The intervention makes it more likely that one of the two existing plans to lay a new cable to and from New Zealand will succeed, according to a Cook Islands minister.

Internet access in the Pacific is expensive and limited. For example, the Cook Islands relies entirely on expensive satellite communications to carry phone calls and internet traffic, Cook Islands finance minister Mark Brown said.

A “standard” broadband plan in the Cook Islands costing $49 a month comes with a meagre 6 gigabyte data cap – and with 100 millisecond lag, business is stifled and video-gaming has yet to take off.

Representatives from the Ministry of Foreign Affairs and Trade (MFAT) met with delegations from the Cook Islands, Niue, Tokelau and French Polynesia on Thursday to discuss improving internet connectivity in the region.

The ministry has since issued a communique saying officials would present leaders with “solutions for a submarine cable and satellite infrastructure” to improve communications for the islands by August.

New Zealand would “facilitate the planning and development phases of the project”, it said.

Auckland-based Hawaiki hopes to build a $500 million cable linking Australia and New Zealand to the United States via several Pacific Islands, but has had a series of disappointments securing the last remaining $150m it requires.

Another firm, Spain’s Bluesky, aims to build a cable from New Zealand as far as Hawaii, also connecting other islands en route – including American Samoa where it has a subsidiary business.

Brown said representatives from private companies Hawaiki Cable and Bluesky attended the Auckland meeting and it seemed they had the most viable options to improve internet access in the region.

This is good for such a cable will not just link up some Pacific countries, but provide a second cable between NZ and the US.

Another Trade Me rival

January 28th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A website developer’s 12-year labour of love has just gone live and is taking on Trade Me.

Tim van Ameringen has spent more than 40,000 hours developing 4tradeit.co.nz, a new low-cost auction and classified website, from his Dairy Flat man cave in North Auckland.

Site looks good,but success is not down to site design.

But it has also meant he’s kept costs down to hundreds of thousands rather than tens of millions like failed auction sites Wheedle and Sella.

This means big wins for users, as most will use the website for free.

It’s free to sign up, free to list products with one photo, and there is no selling fee.

The trouble is most people are not worried about the 8% fee on Trade Me (and yes I’m one of those annoyed at the increase). They worry about getting the maximum price.

Sellers will go to the site where the most buyers are, as more buyers can mean 50%, 60% more for what you sell. And buyers will go to the sites where they can find what they are looking for – ie where the most sellers are.

First mover advantage is huge for auction sites.

His website offers all the same categories except for three; books, electronic media and tickets and memorabilia, which are too difficult to deal with, van Ameringen says. 

Users may also be attracted to the site for its charity element.

Charitable trust Wings of Hope owns 45 per cent of 4tradeit and any profits will be spread back into the community to organisations such as Women’s Refuge.

Without promotion the site is already attracting 1000 users a day and 17 affiliated car dealers have around 1100 vehicles listed.

Van Ameringen is now hoping to attract more users and small businesses.

“If people find it can offer an alternative, then it has served its purpose,”  he says.

2,500 people on there at the moment. I wish it well, but I’m doubtful it will gain meaningful market share.

UPDATE: Some info I have been asked to add on by Tim van Ameringen

Balmoral Marketing/Karapiro spa:
The Te Whare Kariki Charitable Trust (now named the Wings of Hope Trust) purchased 2 chalets in the original Karapiro Spa development as an investment. The annual return for the investment was advertised as 10%.
When the developer (Henry Holt) went into receivership, Fiona and I were asked by three other investors who had lost their investment to join together and purchase the project from the receivers. Fiona and I agreed to do so, the purchase was made using a new company named Balmoral Marketing Ltd, and Fiona and I became a minority shareholder of this company. Two of the shareholders with a majority shareholding took control of the project. I was hospitalised with pericarditis (a stress related heart issue), and had no personal involvement in the project (we were shut out by secretive majority shareholders).

Approximately two years into the project, the project ran into financial difficulty and the two majority shareholders suggested I take on a Director role in Balmoral Marketing Ltd. I naively agreed to do so on the basis that all activities undertaken by the company would be transparent and best practice. Balmoral Marketing Ltd entered into a funding agreement with Prudential (a Christchurch based finance company) by way of a contributory mortgage for approximately $16.6m; this would have provided sufficient funds to complete the project. Prudential was successful in raising approximately $16.3m. However, due to the legislatively binding timeframe permitted for this type of funding facility to be filled, the end goal of $16.6m was not achieved. Without these funds, Balmoral Marketing Ltd was left with no option but to enter into voluntary receivership. This was one of the most difficult situations I have personally been involved in, knowing the lives that would be affected. Subsequently, Balmoral Marketing Ltd was liquidated, the two majority shareholders were both sentenced to jail for 6 years for their own personal financial dealings, I was absolved from any wrong doing by the liquidator (KPMG), and Fiona and I have since lived a quiet life, with a focus on our family and the building of 4tradeit.    

 

Wings of Hope Trust:
I originally set up the Wings of Hope Trust (formerly named The Te Whare Kariki Charitable Trust) for a Therapeutic boating project to help people with disabilities and mental ill health in the Auckland/Waitemata region. My background for 14 years was as the managing director of one of the early community mental health services in the Mt Eden, Auckland. Fiona is an occupational therapist who has a passion for helping people with disabilities. The ASB agreed to fund 50% of the project if the Trust could raise the balance. The Trust was unable to raise the required balance for the project to proceed. The Trust has purchased 45% of the 4tradeit Ltd shares, to be the vehicle for distribution of funds to NZ charities (as generated by the 4tradeit website). Independent Trustees will be added to the Trust when the Trust has a level of funds to distribute. Until this is achieved, there is little incentive for an independent Trustee(s) to invest their time in the Trust.

 

4tradeit:
After reading the posts in this blog, I am a bit embarrassed to confirm that I have spent almost 13 years, and committed the amount of hours discussed … often working 12 to 16 hour days, 6-7 days per week (as hard as this may seem to believe) on the 4tradeit project. Fiona, my children and close friends can vouch for this.
When I started the 4tradeit project, I was 41 and the extent of my computer knowledge was how to use the basics of Microsoft word and excel. I am self-taught, without the benefit of colleagues to collaborate and bounce ideas off, and started without basic understanding of any coding language or of how to make or work with graphics. The original idea I had was to create an internet based search tool, to locate hard drive parts from around the world for an IT company I was a part owner in (Digital Recovery Ltd), hence the name ‘4 trade IT’. When we sold Digital Recovery Ltd, the idea changed to creating a trading website that could be used to raise money for local kiwi charities.

The core 4tradeit software is by a company called Geodesic Solutions. This company (over the last 13 years) has perfected the basic functionality coding required for an online auction to run smoothly. However, aside from the auction functionality, much of the other Geodesic software functionality is boutique and basic in nature. Together with the help of three other programmers, I have built a new ‘Items selling’ addon module called MyStuff. This module alone has taken two years to perfect, and still has some issues we are working on to get the module fully functional as I had envisaged it to work. The software has over 15 such addon modules that we have built.

Most of the issues raised in this blog we have fixed, including a change to new dedicated servers that now cost 20 times the annual cost of the old servers. The website is currently running well with few reported issues, and around 2700 members are enjoying using the website. 

Wheedle reportedly had 17 programmers and went through $18m before they closed down their trading website. I have so far spent $120,000 and my own sweat on 4tradeit, and we have lived on little personal income over the last 13 years. Building 4tradeit has many times felt like a long, fruitless journey, often a foolhardy one, and many time I have wanted to quit (maybe I should have … who knows). Anyway, here we are ….

In flight wifi spreading

January 24th, 2016 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Internet-deprived airline passengers take note: Experts believe Qantas and Virgin Australia will be increasingly pressured to offer in-flight Wi-Fi on international routes now that most of their partners and competitors do so.

“American, Delta, and United now offer Wi-Fi on nearly all flights [from Australia] to the United States, but neither Qantas nor Virgin Australia do,” Jason Rabinowitz, data manager for airline product differentiation platform Routehappy, said. “At some point, passenger demand is going to force them to offer it.”

Rabinowitz’s comments came as Routehappy released its annual Global State of In-Flight Wi-Fi report.

Both airlines I used recently in the US had wifi on board. Veyr reasonable prices also – just $8 for an entire flight.

I look forward to Air NZ providing wifi one day. I understand the Pacific Ocean makes it a bit more challenging for them, but in a few years it will be standard on all longer flights and hopefully the shorter ones also.

Politik on Amy Adams

January 15th, 2016 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

Richard Harman writes at Politik:

For Communications Minister, Amy Adams, who has launched a review of the 2001 Telecommunications Act which is relevant to the way the internet is regulated, the very idea of regulation almost seems like trying to wrestle with a jelly.

Not that she seems that philosophically keen on regulation anyway.

The review includes issues surrounding television which she says she does not think it is government’s job to try and figure out how the commercial businesses respond to the rapidly changing market.

Good. The smartest brains around the world are struggling with working out the answer, so to have a Government try and pick winners is a bad idea.

That comment will disappoint many in the TV industry who worry that a country of 4.4 million viewers will simply be rolled over in content terms by the big Hollywood or other international players.

We have NZ on Air, the Film Commission etc to support the local industry. That is preferable to dictating to providers what content they must supply.

It is that enthusiasm for light handed regulation and endorsement of the market which has made something of a rising star within the National Party.

My view is that Amy is doing very well.

On telecommunication regulation overall she says she has to walk a fine line.

“We have to get the balance right between investors seeing a value in spending on new and replacement technologies and services but at the same time not make it so attractive to investors that consumers get done in the pricing — and that’s a very fine balance,” she says.

“The biggest thing missing at the moment is certainty.

“You talk to any investor and it’s not even a matter of what the rules are, it’s knowing what the rules are so they can price it out and work out where they are and I think the biggest issue at the moment for investors in that market is not the pricing level so much as the complete uncertainty as to where it could go.”

There’s a clue here to how she might respond to the submissions that have been made on the Telecommunications Act and is pricing provisions.

“The very one off, individually created, unique in the world approach we have for pricing telecom services is creating some issues and we could look to a number of better understood processes like a utility style building block approach.”

There’s a lot of interest in the concept of treating telco infrastructure providers like other utilities. Instead of having the Commerce Commission determine prices for every regulated service, just have them establish a maximum rate of return as they do for lines companies and airports.

“I’m personally of a view that the internet stays free and open and outside state control,” she says.

Excellent.

“But that is not to say that we can’t have some sort of consistency of approach about things that our respective countries and residents expect us to regulate for like tax, like classifications, like law enforcement.”

But the picture that emerges is that of a Minister determined that telecommunications in New Zealand will have a light handed regulatory regime, but one which fits neatly into the overall globalised telecommunications industry.

Any infrastructure industry will always have a degree of regulation. It is a necessary evil to prevent vertically integrated monopolies destroying competition. But the regulation should be predictable and consistent.

Herald calls for Dotcom to go

December 28th, 2015 at 4:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald editorial:

New Zealanders ought to be able to find Judge Dawson’s 271-page decision online as easily as they can download movies and music and other copyrighted material. It explains the methods allegedly used by Dotcom’s Megaupload site to store such material and even reward those who did so. It is said to have provided multiple URL links to the same material and when it received a take-down notice from a copyright owner, it is said to have removed only the offender’s link, not the material.

Again I recommend people read the decision. The way Mega was run bears almost no resemblance to You Tube or Dropbox. in fact they stole hundreds of thousands of videos from You Tube to act as camouflage for what they were really doing – paying people to share commercial copyrighted movies.

It may be that these sort of practices are technically legal but it is in the interests of content providers and users that we find out. We cannot find out until Dotcom goes to the US and faces trial. He should go now.

Interesting that Dotcom claimed to be starved of funds, yet he is also saying they will fight all the way to the Supreme Court. That would suggest he in fact has plenty of funds available for his legal case.

Herald backs down on uninformed editorial

December 24th, 2015 at 1:00 pm by David Farrar

On Friday the NZ Herald editorial proclaimed:

Strange things started to happen rather quickly. Not enough subscribers were keen to switch to the more expensive connection, so Chorus raised the price of copper connections to $45 a month to make fibre more attractive.

An organisation of users protested. The Commerce Commission, which can regulate network pricing, stepped in and forced Chorus to lower its copper charge to $32.45. At that, Chorus appealed and the commission has spent the past three years reviewing its calculations.

The following Wednesday their editorial back downs:

Last Friday, our editorial expressed concern that the charge being set for telecommunications on the copper network was being artificially inflated to make the Government-inspired roll-out of fibre optic cable more competitive.

That view has been strongly contested and we need to reconsider a number of issues. Few costs in an economy are more important than the price of its vital infrastructure.

Chorus, the network provider, does not set its own charges. They are done entirely by the Commerce Commission. We have been assured the charge determined by the commission last week has nothing to do with the cost of fibre connections, the uptake of which is at 16.4 per cent of customers served so far.

Kudos to the Herald for admitting they got it wrong. Not so good they did an editorial in the first place they was so poorly researched.

The 271 page Dotcom judgment

December 24th, 2015 at 7:00 am by David Farrar

I’ve now read the 271 page ruling of Judge Dawson in Dotcom et al extradition hearing.

Any doubt on there being a case for extradition crumbles when reading the ruling.

In fact, the evidence in there is so strong, that I think the chance of a successful prosecution in the US is now very high. Previously I was quite unsure if there would be proof beyond reasonable doubt.

I encourage people to take the time to read the ruling. Any thought that Megaupload operated like Youtube or Google Drive gets blown away. The paragraphs from 200 to 300 get into the meat. Here are some extracts:

DOTCOM sent an e-mail message to VAN DER KOLK, ORTMANN and BENCKO in which he complained about the deletion of URL links in response to infringement notices from the copyright holders. In the message, DOTCOM stated: “I told you many times not to delete links that are reported in batches of thousands from insignificant sources. I would say that those infringing reports from MEXICO of ’14,000’ links would fall into that category. And the fact that we lost significant revenue because of it justifies my reaction”

ORTMANN told VAN DER KOLK “Maybe try undeleting them” and VAN DER KOLK asked “You want to risk that?” Then VAN DER KOLK said “I mean MX is just MX, we could ignore them”, and ORTMANN added “It’s not like Mexico is going to sue us in Hong Kong”. ORTMANN continued “Just for testing, we should undelete those files”, “for one day”, “we can excuse it as a tech glitch”. VAN DER KOLK added “I often ignore reports from certain countries, such as VN”. In this context, the abbreviations “MX” and “VN” appear to refer to Mexico and Vietnam, respectively.

So they decided not to delete material from countries they didn’t think were powerful enough to pursue them.

Later that day, DOTCOM instructed ORTMANN, in German, “And please do what I wrote bram. Undelete everything that was in the last 4 weeks reported from non first world countries. SIMPLY everything. And you will see we have daily record again”

So direct instructions from Dotcom to undelete files that they had been told breached copyright.

The U.S. Attorney’s Office for the Eastern District of Virginia expects a representative of the FBI to testify to the following facts: a. On or about December 26, 2008, via Skype, ORTMANN said to VAN DER KOLK, “wow, an Indian subpoena requesting MV uploader credentials…” VAN DER KOLK responded, “wow,” “ah that one from the police,” “I think I saw that one.” Later, VAN DER KOLK said, “it’s just Indian police,” and ORTMANN responded,” yes, we can probably ignore this one.” VAN DER KOLK suggested, “we can always say that we never received their e-mail,”

Not exactly honest are they?

On or about October 25, 2009, Mr van der Kolk instructed a Mega Conspiracy employee through an e-mail, written in Dutch, how to alter the “featured” videos list on Megavideo.com and the “Top 100” list on Megaupload.com. Mr van der Kolk wrote, among other things, that the Top 100 should not list any copyrighted files, but instead should list game demos, software demos, and movie trailers. Mr van der Kolk instructed the employee to track what was currently popular on the Internet and to download material from websites such as download.com, apple.com/trailers, and gamespot.com. Mr van der Kolk further instructed the employee to create fake accounts on Megaupload.com and Megavideo.com and to upload the files to those accounts, so that it would appear that the files were uploaded by active users instead of Mega Conspiracy employees.

So they knew the material downloaded most was copyrighted, and they faked their top 100 list to exclude that.

On or about November 19, 2009, via Skype, DOTCOM sent ORTMANN a Skype conversation between DOTCOM and VAN DER KOLK, during which DOTCOM said: MV is full of problematic content on the [publicly viewable] video pages. I told you how important this is. Every day counts, especially since we have articles out there comparing us with napster and putting us in a bad light. WHY THE FUCK did you not take care of this? You told me you will do this WHILE you are in HK. I just spoke with mathias [ORTMANN] and he told me he informed you long time ago about fixing this. WHY do you risk our good running business with not following up on important matters like this. If you look at the latest video pages now it is FULL with the latest commercial stuff. FUCK THIS BRAM!

The problem wasn’t that their most popular content was commercial stuff, it was that they were admitting this on the public pages.

And ORTMANN added, “the important thing is that nobody must know that we have auditors letting this stuff through.” VAN DER KOLK responded, “yes that’s very true also.” ORTMANN replied, “if we had no auditors – full DMCA protection, but with tolerant auditors, that would go away.” And VAN DER KOLK replied, “yes true”.

There are scores of references to them hiding what they really were doing.

On or about April 10, 2006, Van der Kolk sent an e-mail to Ortmann asking, “Do we have a server available to continue downloading of the Youtube’s vids? … Kim just mentioned again that this has really priority.” In addition, Van der Kolk wrote, “Hope [Youtube.com] is not implementing a fraud detection system now… * praying *”. Van der Kolk also wrote: “Well we only have 30% of their videos yet.. In my opinion it’s nice to have everything so we can descide and brainstorm later how we’re going to benefit from it.”

They decided to download nearly the entire contents of Youtube onto Mega, so they could falsely claim the majority of their users are uploading home videos, not commercial copyrighted content.

Judge Dawson concluded:

The overwhelming preponderance of evidence produced by the applicant in the ROC and the SROC establishes a prima facie case to answer for all respondents on each of the counts. …

Pursuant to s 24(1) this Court finds that the respondents are all eligible for surrender on all thirteen counts in the superseding indictment.

Hard to read the judgment and come to any other conclusion.

Dotcom ruled eligible for extradition

December 23rd, 2015 at 2:50 pm by David Farrar

The District Court has ruled that Kim Dotcom is eligible for extradition.

No doubt he will appeal, and claim all sorts of conspiracies. But this was a matter decided by a judge, after 50 days of hearings. I doubt any person has ever had a longer or more well resourced defence case.

He has 15 days to appeal to the High Court, which can be on a matter of law only.

In a way this is a pity. I’d be quite keen for him to remain in NZ and spend another $5 million on trying to overthrown the Government, to have it all backfire again!

Europe trying to ban under 16s from social media

December 20th, 2015 at 6:56 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

A new law plans to ban children under 16 living in the European Union (EU) from social media unless they have parental consent – but New Zealand experts say it won’t have the desired effect.

EU Parliament introduced the change to the proposed data protection laws last week.

If the new legislation is passed it will raise the age of consent for websites to use personal data from 13 to 16.

It would mean millions of teenagers under 16 would be forced to seek permission from parents whenever signing up to a social media account, downloading an app or even using search engines.

The proposed changes would also put Europe out of step with other parts of the world.

The law is due to be negotiated between member states on Tuesday before a vote.

Almost all major social media services, including Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, Snapchat, and Google, currently have a minimum age of 13.

It’s a stupid law that will be counter-productive.

Even the minimum age of 13 is counter-productive as millions of kids get around that by changing their date of birth. Entire classes of eight year olds are on Facebook.

Rather than ban kids too young, you should let them join showing their real age, but use that to protect them. So let a nine year old be on Facebook, but block them from adult groups and from unsolicited messages.

But if you force them to pretend to be 18 to join up, then you teach them to lie about their age, and lose the ability to protect them.

So the proposed new law in Europe will actually harm kids, not help them.

Judge got it wrong on HDCA

December 18th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

I blogged earlier this month on a court order which directed Pete George to introduce a FT moderator:

I make no comment on the dispute itself between Pete George and the party who gained the court order.

I am concerned however that a Judge has made a ruling that a blogger must “introduce a full time moderator systems so that no comment that is harmful to said person is placed on the blog”.

It is unclear under which statute the Judge has made the ruling. It may be the Harmful Digital Communications Act, but this is not stated in the court order.

I don’t have a problem with an interim order instructing content be removed.  That is a proper and not entirely uncommon thing to occur.

But an order that a blog must introduce a full time moderator system is deeply concerning.

The order has now been withdrawn by the court.

Amazingly the Judge did not realise the provisions of the Harmful Digital Communications Act which he relied on, were not to come into force for a couple of years.

I’m shocked a Judge would make such a wide ranging order, and not even have properly read the Act to realise most of it was not in force yet.

ComCom sets final copper price

December 16th, 2015 at 11:00 am by David Farrar

Stuff reports:

Chorus [NZX: CNU] hasn’t said yet whether it will appeal the Commerce Commission’s decision not to backdate the latest changes to the pricing of copper wire phone services but does say the changes deliver it a $120 million boost to annual operating earnings.

If I was Chorus I’d be thanking Father Christmas (the Commerce Commission) for the 50 cent rise in their share price and take the $120 million with gratitude!

The corporate regulator has raised the total price Chorus can charge for its copper wire services by $6.75 a month compared with the $34.44 it has been charging since December last year.

The new price is a surprising $3.30 a month increase from the last draft decision in July and Telecommunications Commissioner Stephen Gale says that’s because the July decision inadvertently excluded trenching costs.

How can you forget trenching? Arguably the most expensive part for new installations.

The final copper wire price of $41.19, rising to $42.35 in 2020, isn’t very far from the $44.98 price Chorus had been allowed to charge up until last December – when Chorus was still part of Telecom, the price was about $1 a month higher again.

$3.50 a month cheaper is better than not cheaper at all, but disappointing the final price is so much higher than the draft price. The difference should be minimal if the draft is done correctly.

ChrisKeall_2015-Dec-15

This handy table from Chris Keall shows the changes. $34.44 looked good to me! But the Commerce Commission has to follow the law which dictates a different methodology.

OMSA rules in favour of blogger

December 16th, 2015 at 10:00 am by David Farrar

The Online Media Standards Authority has just delivered its first ruling on a complaint against a blog (Whale Oil) that is a member and has not upheld the complaint.

The complaint was about this story on Whale Oil, regarding the New Zealand Network Charity.

The finding of the OMSA Complaints Panel was:

The Content subject to complaint appeared on the Whale Oil Beef Hooked website and was titled “Special Investigation: Charity Begins at Home.” It focused on the registered charity, The New Zealand Network Charity, and included a sound recording of a conversation between the Complainant, founder Angela Sothern and Editor Cameron Slater.

The Complainant raised concerns about the accuracy of the article and the content of the recording and said the Publisher was rude and disrespectful and it was irresponsible “to not have ensured the things he was accusing me [of] were correct, founded and evidenced”.

The Complaints Committee found the information presented was an accurate reflection of the recording and included links to other sources. The Complaints Committee accepted the Publisher had made reasonable efforts to ensure that news and current affairs content was accurate and did not mislead in relation to all material points of fact.

The Committee noted the Complainant had approached the Publisher to promote her charity and it considered the recorded discussion was robust questioning from a journalistic standpoint. The Committee concluded that taking into account the context and public interest in the subject, the Publisher had dealt with the Complainant fairly. It noted recording interviews was common and acceptable practice in the media industry.

Taking into account the article was not presented in a way that it would cause panic, unwarranted alarm or undue stress, the Committee ruled the article observed the requirements of Standard 5 Responsible Content and was not in breach of Standards 1, 3 and 5 or Guideline 3(a) of the OMSA Code of Standards and ruled the complaint was Not Upheld.

I doubt even the harshest critic of Cameron will find fault with this ruling, if they read his story and the full decision. I think he raised very legitimate concerns over the charity.

Morepork Home Security

December 16th, 2015 at 9:00 am by David Farrar

Back in May I asked on Facebook:

Any recommendations for home security systems. Not looking for a monitored solution, but ideally one with a loud alarm when triggered, a video camera you can view on your smartphone to see what is happening, and ability to turn the system on and off remotely via your phone. If you have a system like this, interested to know who you got it from, what it cost and how happy you are with it.

I didn’t want a system that when there is a false alarm you pay $100 for a callout fee and even worse that if there is a real burglary it takes 20 minutes for someone to turn up just to check if it a burglary and then call the Police.

I got some names of good alarm and security companies and had a couple come up to do a quote for what it would take to have such a system. The price was close to $10,000.

But then I got lucky. A mate who works for Spark told me that they would soon be releasing a product that sounded like what I was after.  And a month or so later, we got put onto the pre-release trial for Morepork.

A couple of days later a box turned up by courier with our security system. I was slightly nervous about installing it ourselves, but figured we’d give it a go.

They have a video and text installation guide that was really simple to follow.

IMG_3224

First up was the control panel. This is what makes the noise, and controls the sensors. And it has a backup battery so that even if someone cuts the power it will still work. It can communicate with the sensors if they are within 200 metres of it. You need to have spark mobile phone coverage as it connects to the Internet via mobile.

The setup was simple. Plug it in, enter an initial code, tap the test button and then change the default code. That’s it!

IMG_3222

Next are the sensors. The default package has three, but you can get extras for $40 each. You just affix them to doors and windows where the two elements are normally aligned. If the alarm is set and the door or window is opened, then the alarm goes off.

You can also set them to notify you if you leave a door or window open for more than x minutes. This is really useful I’ve found.

You just follow the guide to affix them and then the control panel tells you they are working. Each one took less than five minutes to do.

IMG_3223

Then you install the image sensor. You get one with the package and additional ones are $130 each. The logical place for these are areas where someone may try and enter by.

This takes a bit more work to install. You have to hold them at various heights and angles and then through the web interface get it to take a photo to check it is capturing the right area. We did have a small glitch installing this one, but Morepork has an online chat support line and they sorted the problem out quickly for us.

The camera works day and night (is infrared) and will take a photo when triggered as it is also a motion sensor. You can view these photos almost immediately on your smartphone.

So if an alarm goes off, you can near instantly see if the person who set it off is someone you know.

IMG_3225

Finally you have the video camera. Again you get one with the package and additional ones are $180 each. This was the most challenging to install, and we did have some problems as were on the trial. But the support people were great again and sorted it.

Basically you need to get the video camera connected to your home wireless, and then once that is done plug it in somewhere where you are likely to have people going through.

If the alarm goes, it will record two minutes of video automatically. Also you can immediately access it via a smartphone and view the video feed in real time. The camera is also infrared so works at night.

Being able to check the video feed at any time is great, especially when you have kittens!

In addition to the image and video sensors, you can also get motion sensors for rooms where you don’t want images (say bathrooms) but do want to detect movement. Also you can get a smoke alarm added to the package also, so you get notified if it goes off when you are not home.

The smartphone app

The app is the best part of it. So easy to use. You can use your phone to do the following:

  • Set and deactivate alarm
  • Check image sensor
  • Get live video feed
  • Set up multiple users, with their own codes (good for guests)
  • Notify you if you leave home without setting the alarm

You can actually set up almost any combination of alerts based on time of day, activity, lack of activity etc.

Summary

There were a couple of glitches with set up, but the support team sorted them out very professionally.

The system is exactly what I was looking for. A great combination of motion sensors, image and video monitoring and instant access through a smart phone so you can decide what to do. If it is a burglar you can call 111 straight away, plus you may get photos or video of them.

I’m on a year’s free trial, but will definitely be carrying on when it is up. In fact am about to order a couple more sensors and a another camera.

The quote I had from a security company was close to $10,000. With Morepork it is $500 for the package and $30 a month for service. So over a year $860. and then just $360 a year going forward. If you want the ability for security guards to turn up to an alarm, that is another $20 a month – but I reckon 95% won’t need that – more for those away from their phone a lot.

I’m really really happy with it. Doing it all through your smartphone makes it so easy, and being able to check out what has happened when there is an alarm is great. It’s given me huge peace of mind, and for a lot cheaper than I thought would be possible. Incredibly happy that someone from Spark put me onto this before it launched as if they hadn’t, I probably would be $10,000 or so poorer by now.

Car being sold by reverse auction

December 15th, 2015 at 2:00 pm by David Farrar

From Dropit:

A brand new Fiat Punto Easy is about to be sold at reverse auction where the price will continue to drop for as long as the one minute auction lasts.

Consumers will need to have “nerves of steel” as they watch the car’s price plummet before choosing when to swipe their smartphone or click their mouse to make the winning bid.

This sales concept, which combines the thrill of gaming with the world of online shopping, is the brainchild of Mount Maunganui company Websoft Ltd who launched their auction website and mobile app Dropit earlier this month.

Dropit sells premium items with no reserves in under one minute. There are 5 auctions per day starting at 10am, on the hour until the last one at 2pm, with the Fiat Punto Easy car supplied by Tauranga’s Farmer Auto Village set to be auctioned on Wednesday 16 December 12pm

Reverse auctions are often good for buyers, but not so much for sellers. You only get to bid once, and you win it. But if you hold off you may get it cheaper – but someone may beat you to it.

Dropit CEO Peter Howell says they expect thousands of New Zealanders to experience their first reverse auction bidding on this premium product.

“It’s going to be a pretty exciting 60 seconds!  One lucky punter is going to secure an incredible deal on what is the biggest ticket item we’ve offered to date.”

Over the past month Dropit players have collectively saved thousands of dollars on high-end goods such as Bose speakers, ipod shuffles, an Xbox 360, mobile phone top up vouchers, a Tom Tom navigation unit, a Beach Cruiser Bike, Phil & Teds buggy and Laneway tickets.

“We auctioned off an iPhone 6 worth $1199 and it sold for $796 – saving the winning bidder over $400 on the brand new item,” Howell says. “A $550 Go Pro camera sold for a stupid price of $147, while Beats by Dre studio headphones worth $520 went for an incredible $191. Kiwi consumers are loving it.”

As I said, great stuff if you’re a buyer. You simply bid what you are willing to pay.

Farmer Auto Village spokesperson Melissa Smith says the sporty Fiat Punto Easy is worth $16,940 and has all the latest safety features plus six speaker audio system and a three year/150,000km roadside assistance and warranty.

“We’re excited to partner with Dropit to help promote this new way of shopping. Their website and mobile app is slick, fun and fast – just like this Fiat Punto Easy car. We can’t wait to see what price it goes for on the day.”

During each daily auction punters can see how many others are vying for the same item. The website and mobile app have been designed to prevent people accidently buying items – only a very definite swipe up will seal the deal.

Very cool to do it via an app so you can see how many others are following.

No tag for this post.

Trump wants to “close up” the Internet

December 11th, 2015 at 3:00 pm by David Farrar

News.com.au reports:

Speaking at a campaign rally at the USS Yorktown in South Carolina, Mr Trump said he would look at “closing up” the internet to stop Islamic State from recruiting Americans.

While most people with common sense understand the enormity of such a task, Mr Trump thinks it is as easy as getting Bill Gates on the phone.

“We’re losing a lot of people because of the internet,” he said.

“We have to see Bill Gates and a lot of different people that really understand what’s happening.

“We have to talk to them about, maybe in certain areas, closing that internet up in some ways. Somebody will say, ‘Oh freedom of speech, freedom of speech.’ These are foolish people.”

He gets more deranged every day.

NZ to get a CERT

December 11th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

The Herald reports:

People will be able to look for an official “cyber security tick” when they use businesses, under a Government proposal to reduce cybercrime.

Those with good cyber security practices would be able to display the tick, in a similar way to schemes that acknowledge healthy food or energy efficient appliances.

The tick scheme is proposed in the Government’s refreshed cyber security strategy, launched in Auckland today by Communications Minister Amy Adams.

Other new initiatives include:
• The establishment of a national “CERT” – a computer emergency response team, or expert group, that handles computer security incidents and will be the first port of call for organisations and individuals needing help.
• Review of the Crimes Act 1961 and other legislation to see if changes are needed to more easily address cybercrime.

Most developed countries have a CERT, and the discussion about having one in NZ has gone on for the best part of a decade. It’s good to see a decision made to establish and fund one.

Blog danger from court ruling

December 7th, 2015 at 12:00 pm by David Farrar

Pete George has blogged:

Tonight I was served with a court order notice instructing me to “take down or disable material from the blog Your NZ that mentions or identified [person’s name] or [company name], or any of it’s associated companies directly or indirectly” and “introduce a full time moderator systems so that no comment that is harmful to said person is placed on the blog “Your NZ”.

I make no comment on the dispute itself between Pete George and the party who gained the court order.

I am concerned however that a Judge has made a ruling that a blogger must “introduce a full time moderator systems so that no comment that is harmful to said person is placed on the blog”.

It is unclear under which statute the Judge has made the ruling. It may be the Harmful Digital Communications Act, but this is not stated in the court order.

I don’t have a problem with an interim order instructing content be removed.  That is a proper and not entirely uncommon thing to occur.

But an order that a blog must introduce a full time moderator system is deeply concerning. If such an order was granted against Kiwiblog, I would probably have to stop publishing.

It isn’t even clear what the court means by a full-time moderator, but I presume it means you must manually review and approve every comment made before it appears. For a large traffic blog such as Kiwiblog, that would kill the discussion threads and possibly the blog.

So again I have no view on the dispute itself, but I am concerned that a Judge has made such a wide-ranging order. If the order is under the Harmful Digital Communications Act, then it shows that the concerns about that Act had considerable validity.

UPDATE: Some readers have said they don’t think the action is under the HDCA as most of it is not in force. The court ruling (which I have seen) does not mention the Act at all. But I am told by someone who knows the plaintiff or complainant that the action is under Sections 222 to 25 of the HDCA, which are in force.