Microsoft spams corporate users with messages denigrating their IT departments

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If your company hasn't "upgraded" your computer to Windows 10 -- a tendril of surveillance capitalism masquerading as a "free OS" -- you may start receiving messages from Microsoft telling you that your IT department is holding you back: "Your system administrator has blocked upgrades on this PC. Check with your system administrator about upgrading this PC to Windows 10." Read the rest

Using distributed code-signatures to make it much harder to order secret backdoors

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Cothority is a new software project that uses "multi-party cryptographic signatures" to make it infinitely harder for governments to order companies to ship secret, targeted backdoors to their products as innocuous-looking software updates. Read the rest

Whuffie would be a terrible currency

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My latest Locus column, Wealth Inequality Is Even Worse in Reputation Economies, explains the ways in which "reputation" makes a poor form of currency -- in a nutshell, reputation doesn't fulfill most of the roles we expect from currency (store of value, unit of exchange, unit of account), and it is literally a popularity contest where the rich always get richer. Read the rest

Google launches Project Shield, to protect news sites from DDoS attacks

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Insecure desktop operating systems (and even server/CMS vulnerabilities) has led to the creation of enormous, powerful botnets comprised of thousands, hundreds of thousands, or even millions of machines -- and thanks to the law of supply and demand, it's remarkably cheap and easy to rent time on a botnet and blast any site of your choosing off the Internet. Read the rest

App Stores: winner-take-all markets dominated by rich countries

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In Winners and Losers in the Global Economy, a new Caribou Digital report funded by Mozilla, surveys the top apps from 37 countries and analyzes where they come from and how the revenue from them flows around the world. Read the rest

Austerity Robin Hood: a billionaire who takes from "scroungers" and gives to "hardworking people"

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A beautiful essay in the London Review of Books traces the twists and turns of the Robin Hood story over time, to the era of austerity, where "robbing from the rich and giving to the poor" takes on a completely different complexion. Read the rest

Dissipation of Economic Rents: when money is wasted chasing money

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Much of economics is both esoteric and vital, meaning you need to understand it, but it's hard sledding. Today, economist Tim Harford does us the service of explaining "dissipation of economic rents" -- inefficient systems in which the effort expended by everyone chasing value wipes out the value they're chasing. Read the rest

Solving the "Longbow Puzzle": why did France and Scotland keep their inferior crossbows?

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The longbow was vastly, demonstrably superior to the crossbow, but only England adopted it as a common military weapon; the Scots and French stuck with the inferior crossbow for nearly a century -- why? Read the rest

Independent economists: TPP will kill 450,000 US jobs; 75,000 Japanese jobs, 58,000 Canadian jobs

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Proponents of the secretly negotiated Trans Pacific Partnership -- which lets companies force governments to get rid of their labor, environmental and safety rules in confidential tribunals -- say it's all worth it because it will deliver growth and jobs to the stagnant economies of the rich world. Read the rest

Income inequality makes the 1% sad, too

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A study from the notorious socialists at the Harvard Business Review analyzed data from the Gallup World Poll and the World Top Incomes Database and found that in countries with a large degree of wealth inequality, "levels of life satisfaction" go down, and "negative daily emotional experiences" go up, for all populations, including the richest. Read the rest

Why Americans can't stop working: the poor can't afford to, and the rich are enjoying themselves

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Ever since Keynes's seminal 1930 paper Economic Possibilities for our Grandchildren predicted that technological progress would virtually eliminate work by making labor much more productive, economists have puzzled over why Americans' working hours have gotten longer and longer, until they are some of the longest in the world. Read the rest

Dear Comcast: broadband isn't gasoline

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Comcast's CEO Brian Roberts has been doing a lot of spinning lately to explain his company's plan to increase its prices (already some of the highest in the developed world) by turning on usage caps and charging up the wazoo for people who exceed them. Read the rest

The Entrepreneurial State: how the "free market" stalls without government-funded innovation

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Mariana Mazzucato's The Entrepreneurial State uses empirical research to demolish the capitalist orthodoxy that holds the state to be a feckless, harmful distorter of markets.

Thomas Piketty on Thomas Piketty

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Crooked Timber's fascinating seminar on Thomas Piketty ran all through December, presenting arguments from economists, social scientists and political theorists from around the world on Piketty's seminal Capital in the 21st Century. Read the rest

Lessig on how the economics of data-retention will drive privacy tech

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In an interview with the WSJ's CIO blog, Lawrence Lessig proposes that the existence of cryptographic tools that allow for "zero-knowledge" data-querying, combined with the potential liability from leaks, will drive companies to retain less data on their customers. Read the rest

Pirate Bay cofounder invents an infernal device that will utterly bankrupt the music industry

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The record industry insists that all unauthorized copies represent lost sales. So Peter "brokep" Sunde, co-founder of The Pirate Bay, has built a machine that makes 100 copies per second of Gnarls Barkley's "Crazy," storing them in /dev/null (which is to say, deleting them even as they're created). Read the rest

America: shrinking middle class, growing poverty, the rich are getting richer

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A new Pew report analyzing data from the U.S. Census Bureau and the Federal Reserve Board of Governors finds that America's middle class has shrunk to the smallest share of the US population for the first time in four decades; while the share of national wealth owned by the middle class has dwindled and the share of wealth controlled by the rich has grown. The number of poor Americans has also grown, as middle class families slip into poverty. Read the rest

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