Boing Boing 

The Coming Civil War Over General Purpose Computers

Last month, I gave a talk called "The Coming Civil War Over General Purpose Computing" at DEFCON, the Long Now, and Google. We're going to have a transcript with the slides on Monday, but in the meantime, here's a video of the Long Now version of the talk. Stewart Brand summarized it thus:

Doctorow framed the question this way: "Computers are everywhere. They are now something we put our whole bodies into---airplanes, cars---and something we put into our bodies---pacemakers, cochlear implants. They HAVE to be trustworthy."

Sometimes humans are not so trustworthy, and programs may override you: "I can’t let you do that, Dave." (Reference to the self-protective insane computer Hal in Kubrick’s film "2001." That time the human was more trustworthy than the computer.) Who decides who can override whom?

The core issues for Doctorow come down to Human Rights versus Property Rights, Lockdown versus Certainty, and Owners versus mere Users.

Cory Doctorow: Coming War Against Your Computer Freedom

Today in "Stop it, that's impossibly wonderful": John Slattery will be in Arrested Development

This is going to happen in the year 2013: when Arrested Development comes to Netflix, it will feature an arc for a new character being played by Mad Men's John Slattery. TV Line asked a rep from the show what kind of character he'd be playing, and their lips were sealed. But you know what? This is probably the last thing in the world I want to hear spoilers about. I like my John Slattery storylines to surprise me. (via Splitsider)

The 5-cent cure for unpopularity

Lfe saversCan you count how many ways this Life Savers ad is creepy? (Via X-Ray Delta One)

Last Dandy comic to roll off press

The Dandy, Britain's long-running childrens' comic, is to end after 75 years. Publisher DC Thomson promises that plans are afoot for its popular characters; sister comic The Beano will remain in print. [BBC]

Michael J. Fox is ready to come back to TV, developing a semi-autobiographical sitcom

If there is anyone whose career should just never ever end, it's probably Michael J. Fox. So it's really great news that he's ready to come back to television full-time! Working with Sony Pictures Television, Fox is trying to find a home for a single-camera sitcom based on his own life. He's teaming up with Sam Laybourne (writer of Arrested Development and Cougar Town) and Will Gluck (director of Easy A), and surprise! The networks are very interested. In fact, it sounds like there is a full-on battle over who will get to put this show on the air.

Using the phrases "feeding frenzy" and "bidding war," Vulture says that according to "industry sources," one network is, apparently, ready to take this straight to series. (That almost never happens.) All of the major networks, however, are guaranteeing at least a pilot if they are the lucky network to get their hands on this project. Which means that Michael J. Fox is the most popular debutante at the TV ball -- as he damn well should be!

Honestly, in my life as an entertainment consumer, I don't think I've ever heard a negative thing said about him, except by Rush Limbaugh, who is commonly referred to as "UGH...Rush Limbaugh." After a successful career as a child television star (then playing America's own reluctant, 1980s time lord and a werewolf), Fox did the near-impossible and had an equally successful career in television as an adult. All while giving Parkinson's disease the finger the entire time. So, yes -- let's see Michael J. Fox on TV again. One Michael J. Fox makes up for, like, 17 Bravo Housewives.

Michael J. Fox plots TV comeback with comedy from 'Arrested Development' writer [The Hollywood Reporter]

HOWTO send vulture debt collectors packing

"Defending Junk-Debt-Buyer Lawsuits" is a paper written by Peter A. Holland of the University of Maryland Francis King Carey School of Law and published in the May 1 issue of Clearinghouse Review. It's a clear, short, absolutely readable (and indispensable) guide to fending off speculative lawsuits from vulture debt-collectors. These are the debt collectors who buy up bad debts that banks and other creditors have written off (because there's insufficient evidence that the debt exists in the first place, or because it's past the statute of limitations, or because the debtor has been through a bankruptcy). Then they bulk-file lawsuits against the debtors, hoping that they won't show up in court to defend themselves, so that the vultures can win judgments and use them to go after houses, cars, salaries and so on. As Naked Capitalism's Yves Smith puts it, these vultures are buying up a lot of scrap paper, hoping to find a lottery ticket.

It's surprisingly easy to fend off these bottom-dwellers, though. They have to prove that you owe them money. A brief moment spent scrutinizing the documents filed against you is usually enough to find evidence that will get the case dismissed. Holland's paper explains in detail just what to do to get these vampires to flee from your door:

Read the complaint and accompanying documents multiple times, highlighter in hand, while looking for intentional deceptions, errors, and omissions that could help your client prevail. First, look for defects on the face of the complaint. For example, the named plaintiff might be a different corporation from the entity named in the supporting documents. This occurs with surprising frequency. Second, if your state requires debt buyers to be licensed as debt collectors, check whether the debt buyer is licensed. Suing without a license creates standing issues, and, according to an increasing number of courts, it constitutes a violation of the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act.16 The junk-debt buyer is subject to the Fair Debt Collection Practices Act because the junk-debt buyer allegedly acquires the debt after default.

Third, look for the failure to prove the existence of (or the terms and conditions of) the alleged underlying contract. Failure to prove the contract is the rule rather than the exception. Often a contract is not even attached to the complaint. More often, some well-worn photocopy sample of a terms-and-conditions mailer is attached. This sample is often illegible, and almost never signed by the consumer. On close inspection, the printing date on this document often reveals that it was generated years after the account was allegedly opened. Also, the terms and con- ditions submitted may not be from the original creditor identified by the junk-debt buyer but are presented to make the claim appear supported.

Fourth, the debt buyer is usually unable to prove a complete and unbroken chain of title. Without a valid chain of title, the debt buyer does not have standing to sue.

Defending Junk-Debt-Buyer Lawsuits (via Naked Capitalism)

(Image: Vulture, a Creative Commons Attribution Share-Alike (2.0) image from 7704782@N07's photostream)

Sponsor Shout-Out: Watchismo

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Cow week: Welsh cattle hate dog walkers

Editorial note — Cow Week is a tongue-in-cheek look at risk analysis and why we fear the things we fear. It is inspired by the Discovery Channel's Shark Week, the popularity of which is largely driven by the public's fascination with and fear of sharks.

Read the rest

English seaside town with no chain coffee shops fights off Costa Coffee incursion

The Guardian's John Harris looks at the battle taking place in the Devon town of Totnes, a kind of counterculture/hippie haven on the "English Riviera," where residents are furious at the plan to open an outlet of the Costa Coffee chain. Harris paints a picture of Totnes as the kind of place that would be pretty nice to live in: they issue their own currency that only works with local businesses, have a record store that puts the best music shops in Manhattan to shame, and have dozens of nice coffee shops where skilled baristas ply their trade -- like Portland, OR crossed with an English seaside village.

For Harris (and the Totnes residents with whom he speaks), the fight to keep Costa out of town is a microcosm for the fight against global capitalism, and the triumph of profits and shareholder value over local community and mutual aid.

Totnes's local economy looks to be in reasonable health, which is surely down to the fact that it is about as far from being what we now call a "clone town" as could be imagined. The local record shop, Drift, is mind-bogglingly great: the kind of place that you'd think was amazing if you found it in New York. The quality and diversity of restaurants is amazing. Most pertinently, the town has 42 independently run outlets that serve coffee, and – so far – not a single branch of any of the big caffeine-selling multiples.

Now, though, Costa – whose most visible slogan remains "Saving the world from mediocre coffee" – is on its way, as part of programme of expansion that will look either worryingly aggressive or admirably ambitious, depending on your point of view. Certainly, it seems to be bucking the prevailing trend of our flatlining economy, opening scores of new outlets while independent coffee shops are truly feeling the pinch.

A fully owned subsidiary of the food and hospitality conglomerate Whitbread, it currently operates 1,400 British outlets, and recently announced plans for 350 more. Thanks also to a snowballing presence in petrol stations, pubs and motorway services, its logo is becoming inescapable, which is exactly the point: the chief executive, Andy Harrison, has talked about increasing the number of branches to 2,000, and thus making them ubiquitous. "People really don't want to walk very far for a coffee," he has said. "We can have them a couple of hundred yards apart on a really busy high street, then another at a retail park and another at the station."

Totnes: the town that declared war on global capitalism

Channel Sk1n: Jeff Noon's first novel in 10 years

Alex sez,

Seminal science fiction author Jeff Noon has a new book coming out called Channel Sk1n. This is Jeff's first novel in 10 years, and what makes it even more exciting is the fact that Jeff has chosen to publish it independently, and as an ebook before print. After decades of working with the publishing industry Jeff wants the freedom to create, to interact with his fans 24/7 and to be as prolific as he likes with his writing. He's hoping this new venture will amplify his creative freedom and build on the truly original work he's been doing recently on Twitter @jeffnoon, whence his 140 character fictions have been rippling through cyberspace.

The new book, which reflects on ideas of parasitic media, fame and a possible new 'human' interface, follows popstar Nola Blue on a journey of mutated self-discovery. The ebook is available from Amazon Kindle store, and there's more info on his website.

Channel Skin

How Hollywood-funded corporate vigilantes in the UK shut down SURF THE CHANNEL and sent its owner to jail

Anton Vickerman is a British entrepreneur who operated a search-engine called "Surf the Channel," indexed links to online video content. After an estranged former business-partner filed a complaint, he was targetted by FACT, the UK branch of the Motion Picture Association of America (a shadowy enforcement organization staffed with former police offers), who played every single dirty trick imaginable, from illegal searches to leaning on judges, to make an example of him. He is going to prison for five years. As his final act as a free man, he was written an extensive and well-documented report of all the sleaze and slime that a vigilante group bankrolled by some of the most powerful offshore companies in the world used to shut down his business and get him jailed. It's a long read, and if you're not furious by the time it's over, you're a lot more cynical about corporate-owned justice than I am.

I was convicted of “Conspiracy to defraud the movie industry through the facilitation of copyright infringement” on June 24 2012 after an eight week trial. A trial that was brought not by the UK state prosecutor, the Crown Prosecution Service, but by a private prosecutor, the Federation Against Copyright Theft Limited. For those that are unaware FACT Ltd is the UK regional office of the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA), the same organization that is behind the attempted extradition of Richard O´Dwyer who based his own website TVShack on STC. As will become clear as you read this piece I consider FACT Ltd and the MPAA to be dangerous vigilante organizations that have no place in prosecuting UK citizens never mind conducting up to fifteen illegal surveillance operations every month on those same citizens. FACT Ltd are a private limited company staffed almost entirely by former police and trading standards officers most of which FACT Ltd have identified as willing to go “that extra mile” in their fight against “copyright thieves.” In other words there is a reason that FACT Ltd employs the individuals they do (be that investigators, lawyers or executive officers) – because they are willing to cheat, lie and break the law for their employer. Essentially FACT Ltd is the MPAA´s private police force operating within the UK. But more of that later.

After my conviction many stories appeared in the press regarding the “facts” of my case which I found odd as not one journalist had bothered to attend the trial during those eight weeks. I later found out that these so called facts had been passed to various journalists in a 1600 word press release by FACT Ltd the contents of which were then dutifully parroted by lazy journalists who couldn’t even be bothered to check if what they were reporting was accurate. Publications such as the Daily Mail and my local paper the Evening Chronicle actually just copied and pasted the FACT Ltd press release en masse with only minor alterations. Such is the state of investigative/responsible journalism nowadays. It is because of these inaccurate articles and lies that I felt the need to give my side of the story so that publications that are not as lazy or sycophantic to FACT Ltd would have the true facts at their disposal should they want to report what has really happened here. I can but hope.

I will try to keep this story as short and to the point as possible but the reader will appreciate that this is a tale that spans the last five years of my life and a lot has happened during that time. I will be as brief as possible but you’re still going to need to give me 30 minutes of your time if you want to know the whole story. Sorry!

I started my site on October 1 2007. STC only ever contained links to third party video websites such as YouTube, BBC iPlayer, Veoh, 4OD and many others. It did not nor has it ever streamed content itself. It rapidly became popular and I was able to form partnerships with Warner Bros., Discovery Channel, A&E Television Networks and many other bona fide companies as they realised how important STC was becoming in the Video on Demand market. STC quickly became one of the leading video search engines in the world second only to Google Video.

A Very British Miscarriage Of Justice: The real story behind the conviction of SurfTheChannel´s owner Anton Vickerman