"Fred Benenson"

Inside Cuba's massive, weekly, human-curated sneakernet

Most Cubans have terrible access to the Internet -- estimates suggest only 5-25% of the populace can regularly get online. The government made it a bit easier in recent years with paid wifi hotspots, but they require dough, and they're super slow.

So Cubans have instead, in the last decade, evolved a complex, massive sneakernet. It's called "El Paquete Semanal", or "The Weekly Package" -- in which a loosely-connected group of Cubans assemble a bunch of files (video, audio, web pages, texts) and distribute them around the country via external hard drives, CDs and USB sticks. It's pretty stunning: A weekly curated version of the best of the global Internet, mixed with a ton of locally-produced Cuban content, too. The upshot is a population that is fully conversant in contemporary global TVs, movie and music, except they get it all via USB port and DVD drive.

A group of academics did a deep dive into how El Paquete works, and their paper is free online. They met with "Los Maestros" -- the folks who download and compile the material, relying on their own crowdsourced networks of Cubans who get files off the creaky public wifi, or, in the case of bigger files, from contributors who have fatter bandwidth at their government or university jobs. The Maestros also act as promoters of local content, finding Cuban music and video and putting that in El Paquete.

The next step in the chain is Los Paqueteros -- "The Packagers" -- who are the distributors: They buy the weekly package from the Maestros, and sell files to everyday customers. Read the rest

Federal Appeals Court rules that violating a website's Terms of Service is not a crime

A Ninth Circuit Appellate Court has rejected Oracle's attempt to treat violating its website terms of service as a felony under the Computer Fraud and Abuse Act, Read the rest

Kickstarting Pitch Deck: a party game that challenges you to make great pitches for terrible startups

Fred Benenson (previously) just quit his job to make weird internet stuff, something he excels at: his latest is Pitch Deck, a kickstarted card game that uses a madlibs/Cards Against Humanity-style mechanism to challenge you to come up with excellent pitches for terrible startups. Read the rest

Profile of James Love, "Big Pharma's worst nightmare"

Jamie Love is one of the founders of Knowledge Ecology International (formerly the Consumer Project on Technology), a super-effective activist NGO that helped to establish low-cost, global access to HIV/AIDS drugs. Read the rest

FDA rules make it nearly impossible for beer makers to give their grain to farmers for feed

Joe sez, "There's a new FDA rule that will make it nearly make it financially impossible for small craft brewers to give their grain away to farmers for animal feed. I work for a small brewery and all of us there are very upset about this and the general disregard for sustainability. At the end if the article linked there's direct FDA links that cover their proposal."

Leftover brewing grains have been fed to livestock since the dawn of agriculture, so this is a pretty radical shift. The proposed new requirements for animal feed handling stipulate that the feed has to be dried, analyzed and packaged before being donated to farmers (the spent grains are generally given away at the end of the brewing process), at substantial expense.

It's clear that food safety is important, but I'm not convinced that the stringency of this rule is commensurate with the risk. Read the rest

Al Jazeera Releases Gaza Video Archive Under Creative Commons License

Over at the Creative Commons blog, Fred Benenson writes:

Al Jazeera is releasing 12 broadcast quality videos today shot in Gaza under Creative Commons’ least restrictive Attribution license. Each professionally recorded video has a detailed information page and is hosted on blip.tv allowing for easy downloads of the original files and integration into Miro. The value of this footage is best described by an International Herald Tribune/New York Times article describing the release:

In a conflict where the Western news media have been largely prevented from reporting from Gaza because of restrictions imposed by the Israeli military, Al Jazeera has had a distinct advantage. It was already there.

More importantly, the permissive CC-BY license means that the footage can be used by anyone including, rival broadcasters, documentary makers, and bloggers, so long as Al Jazeera is credited.

Al Jazeera Launches Creative Commons Repository (Via Sean Bonner) and here is the Al Jazeera Creative Commons Repository. Read the rest

Jesusphone: He is Risen

I'm in a cafe in Los Angeles right now with Sean Bonner, kicking the tires on the iPhone we just brought back from the Apple store at the Grove. In two words: totally sweet.

It lives up to the hype. All the rules just changed.

(All photos in this post: Sean Bonner. Link to Flickr set.)

Both of us were skeptical about the lack of a conventional keyboard, but so far, it's awesome. Sean's tapping out a bunch of Twitters and emails, single-fingeredly, and sailing through. iPhone does a remarkable job of sniffing out what you meant to type if you goof a little -- more so than any other mobile interface I've used. It'll take some getting used to, and it's not the same as a conventional keyboard. But it does not suck at all. I can imagine typing two-thumbed pretty soon.

(above: Greg Joswiak from Apple, with Jonathan, the first guy in line at the Apple store at LA's Grove mall.)

This cafe where we are right now has an open WiFi network, so data speed as we're testing this for the first time is fantastically fast. Automatically connects if the network is open.

When you connect to internet using AT&T's 300 kbps EDGE network, it does feel pretty poky. More like sub-dial-up, particularly in places where the signal is weak. Still -- faster than what you may be used to on any number of lamer US smartphones. Faster than I was used to on several models of Treos, and some Windows Mobile smartphones. Read the rest

FreeCulture activist event in SecondLife

James sez, "He's protested DRM on the streets and he's helped spearhead the student movement for copyright reform. This Thursday, Fred Benenson comes to Second Life (where he's known as "Fred Beckersted") to promote and expand the meaning of free culture in the virtual world. Appropriately enough, he'll be appearing at the new Free Culture Art Gallery featuring cool CC-licensed works, hosted by the official Creative Commons office on Joi Ito's SL island of Kula."


(Thanks, James!) Read the rest

Napoleon Dynamite soundboard

A soundboard is a collection of dialog snippets from a movie that you can use to make prank calls. This Napoleon Dynamite soundboard is especially good. Check out the recordings of prank calls made with this sound board and other soundboards. Link (Thanks Robin)

Reader comment:

Fred Benenson says: "Saw the Napolean Dynamite soundboard, and figured I'd post one that I made with Avery Brooks using clips of the David Brent character from the BBC's The Office. His blabbering makes for some very funy conversations. Enjoy!" Read the rest