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Eradication

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When you get to hell, tell smallpox we say hello.
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When you get to hell, tell smallpox we say hello.

Surveillance and the Internet of Things

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The Internet has turned into a massive surveillance tool. We're constantly monitored on the Internet by hundreds of companies -- both familiar and unfamiliar. Everything we do there is recorded, collected, and collated -- sometimes by corporations wanting to sell us stuff and sometimes by governments wanting to keep an eye on us.

Ephemeral conversation is over. Wholesale surveillance is the norm. Maintaining privacy from these powerful entities is basically impossible, and any illusion of privacy we maintain is based either on ignorance or on our unwillingness to accept what's really going on.

It's about to get worse, though. Companies such as Google may know more about your personal interests than your spouse, but so far it's been limited by the fact that these companies only see computer data. And even though your computer habits are increasingly being linked to your offline behavior, it's still only behavior that involves computers.

The Internet of Things refers to a world where much more than our computers and cell phones is Internet-enabled. Soon there will be Internet-connected modules on our cars and home appliances. Internet-enabled medical devices will collect real-time health data about us. There'll be Internet-connected tags on our clothing. In its extreme, everything can be connected to the Internet. It's really just a matter of time, as these self-powered wireless-enabled computers become smaller and cheaper.

Lots has been written about the "Internet of Things" and how it will change society for the better. It's true that it will make a lot of wonderful things possible, but the "Internet of Things" will also allow for an even greater amount of surveillance than there is today. The Internet of Things gives the governments and corporations that follow our every move something they don't yet have: eyes and ears.

Soon everything we do, both online and offline, will be recorded and stored forever. The only question remaining is who will have access to all of this information, and under what rules.

We're seeing an initial glimmer of this from how location sensors on your mobile phone are being used to track you. Of course your cell provider needs to know where you are; it can't route your phone calls to your phone otherwise. But most of us broadcast our location information to many other companies whose apps we've installed on our phone. Google Maps certainly, but also a surprising number of app vendors who collect that information. It can be used to determine where you live, where you work, and who you spend time with.

Another early adopter was Nike, whose Nike+ shoes communicate with your iPod or iPhone and track your exercising. More generally, medical devices are starting to be Internet-enabled, collecting and reporting a variety of health data. Wiring appliances to the Internet is one of the pillars of the smart electric grid. Yes, there are huge potential savings associated with the smart grid, but it will also allow power companies - and anyone they decide to sell the data to -- to monitor how people move about their house and how they spend their time.

Drones are another "thing" moving onto the Internet. As their price continues to drop and their capabilities increase, they will become a very powerful surveillance tool. Their cameras are powerful enough to see faces clearly, and there are enough tagged photographs on the Internet to identify many of us. We're not yet up to a real-time Google Earth equivalent, but it's not more than a few years away. And drones are just a specific application of CCTV cameras, which have been monitoring us for years, and will increasingly be networked.

Google's Internet-enabled glasses -- Google Glass -- are another major step down this path of surveillance. Their ability to record both audio and video will bring ubiquitous surveillance to the next level. Once they're common, you might never know when you're being recorded in both audio and video. You might as well assume that everything you do and say will be recorded and saved forever.

In the near term, at least, the sheer volume of data will limit the sorts of conclusions that can be drawn. The invasiveness of these technologies depends on asking the right questions. For example, if a private investigator is watching you in the physical world, she or he might observe odd behavior and investigate further based on that. Such serendipitous observations are harder to achieve when you're filtering databases based on pre-programmed queries. In other words, it's easier to ask questions about what you purchased and where you were than to ask what you did with your purchases and why you went where you did. These analytical limitations also mean that companies like Google and Facebook will benefit more from the Internet of Things than individuals -- not only because they have access to more data, but also because they have more sophisticated query technology. And as technology continues to improve, the ability to automatically analyze this massive data stream will improve.

In the longer term, the Internet of Things means ubiquitous surveillance. If an object "knows" you have purchased it, and communicates via either Wi-Fi or the mobile network, then whoever or whatever it is communicating with will know where you are. Your car will know who is in it, who is driving, and what traffic laws that driver is following or ignoring. No need to show ID; your identity will already be known. Store clerks could know your name, address, and income level as soon as you walk through the door. Billboards will tailor ads to you, and record how you respond to them. Fast food restaurants will know what you usually order, and exactly how to entice you to order more. Lots of companies will know whom you spend your days -- and nights --and night -- with. Facebook will know about any new relationship status before you bother to change it on your profile. And all of this information will all be saved, correlated, and studied. Even now, it feels a lot like science fiction.

Will you know any of this? Will your friends? It depends. Lots of these devices have, and will have, privacy settings. But these settings are remarkable not in how much privacy they afford, but in how much they deny. Access will likely be similar to your browsing habits, your files stored on Dropbox, your searches on Google, and your text messages from your phone. All of your data is saved by those companies -- and many others -- correlated, and then bought and sold without your knowledge or consent. You'd think that your privacy settings would keep random strangers from learning everything about you, but it only keeps random strangers who don't pay for the privilege -- or don't work for the government and have the ability to demand the data. Power is what matters here: you'll be able to keep the powerless from invading your privacy, but you'll have no ability to prevent the powerful from doing it again and again.

This essay originally appeared on the Guardian. TheGuardian.com.

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aceofaces
3330 days ago
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ozten
3329 days ago
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An important perspective on the internet of things.
Seattle
Romanikque
3330 days ago
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In my best 1984... This story goodspeak the big brother has you.
Baltimore, MD
joeythesaint
3330 days ago
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As little as five years ago I might still have blown this off as panic and conspiracy theory. I'm embarrassed by how little I knew five years ago and I wonder what the world's going to look like five years from now.
Ottawa, Ontario

Game of Thrones Pirates Break BitTorrent Swarm Record

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game-of-thrones3As expected, the new season premiere of Game of Thrones has generated quite a bit of activity on various BitTorrent sites.

Hundreds and thousands of downloaders went out to grab a copy of the show, breaking the record for the largest BitTorrent swarm ever in the process.

A few hours after the first torrent of the show was uploaded the OpenBitTorrent tracker reported that 163,088 people where sharing one single torrent. 110,303 were sharing a complete copy of that particular torrent while 52,786 were still downloading.

These are mind boggling numbers that we’ve never seen before.

Previously the record for the largest BitTorrent swarm belonged to the season premiere of the TV-show “Heroes” with 144,663 peers.

Counting all the different releases it’s estimated that the latest Game of Thrones episode has been downloaded over a million times already. Considering the above there is little doubt that Game of Thrones will once again be crowned the most downloaded TV-show of the year.

swarm-record

So who are these people, and why are they pirating Game of Thrones?

One of the reasons cited for the popularity among pirates is the international delay in airing. Outside the U.S. fans of the show sometimes have to wait a while before they can see the latest episode. HBO is trying to close these release gaps as best it can, but for some fans a few hours is already too much.

Delays are just part of the problem though. The fact that the show is only available to those who pay for an HBO subscription doesn’t help either. This explains why many people from the U.S. prefer to use BitTorrent.

To get an indication of where these Game of Thrones fans can be found we took a closer look at their download locations.

The U.S. comes out on top, followed by the UK and Australia. The number three spot for Australia is impressive and with a population of just over 22 million people it has the highest piracy rate. Looking at other cities we see that most downloads come from London, before Paris and Sydney.

But according to HBO, piracy isn’t killing the show, quite the contrary.

While HBO would prefer it if everyone paid for Game of Thrones, their programming president Michael Lombardo doesn’t fear piracy. He sees it as a compliment and doesn’t believe it negatively impacts DVD-sales.

It’s a win-win apparently.

Spring 2013
# Country % City %
torrentfreak.com
1 United States 12.9% London 4.3%
2 United Kingdom 11.5% Paris 3.2%
3 Australia 9.9% Sydney 3.0%
4 Canada 7.4% Melbourne 3.0%
5 France 4.4% Amsterdam 2.2%
6 The Netherlands 4.2% Athens 1.8%
7 Spain 3.2% Stockholm 1.6%
8 Sweden 3.0% Madrid 1.6%
9 Philippines 2.6% Perth 1.5%
10 Norway 2.5% Singapore 1.3%

Source: Game of Thrones Pirates Break BitTorrent Swarm Record

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Iran restores access to Gmail after week-long block

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After a recent outage, Iran has unblocked Google's Gmail service. On Sunday, September 23, Iranblockedthe site as a protest against the “Innocence of Muslims” video that had been posted to YouTube—itself a site that has been officially banned in the Islamic Republic since 2009. For years, Iran has been in a constant struggle with its domestic Internet users to block access to various websites that are deemed undesirable.

This weekend, an Iranian tech newspaper,Asr-e Ertebat(Google Translate), estimated that if half of Iran’s Internet-using population was using a VPN as a way to circumvent the so-called “Filternet,” local VPN firms they were taking in approximately $3.7 million in revenue per month. (Assuming anexchange rateof 32,000 Iranian rials to $1.) The paper derived the figure by assuming that if half of Iran's 33 million Internet users are using VPN services, which cost just a few dollars per month, then it would total 120 billion Iranian rials ($3.7 million) monthly.

According to BBC Persian (Google Translate) and the Associated Press, many Iranians, including those in government, became upset when they could no longer use the popular webmail service. The move to return access to Gmail came, according to an Iranian member of parliament quoted in theAftab-e Yazd (Yazd Sun) newspaper, after many of his colleagues complained to telecom officials that they could no longer access their own e-mail.

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On Sunday, when the announcement was made at a press conference in Tehran, local reporters apparently pointed out that Iran’s domestic webmail alternatives did not compare to Gmail.

So what was the response of Iran's deputy telecoms minister, Ali Hakim Javadi?

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Automatically Backup your Gmail account on a schedule with GMVault and Windows Task Scheduler

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It's nice to have your things backed up to the cloud, but you really need to have local backups as well. I have two 1TB pocket hard drives that I rotate between my home and the bank. They are labeled Offsite Backup A and Offsite Backup B. You can encrypt them with either Bitlocker To Go or TrueCrypt, and I do.

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I've got years and years of email in my only personal email account, powered by Gmail. I've recently started backing up my WHOLE gmail account with a wonderful free tool called GMVault. Setup requires a little attention to detail but once it's done, it's done.

Once installed, you run GMBault-Shell and type "gmvault sync youremail@address.com." The first backup will take HOURS and on Windows will put thousands and thousands of files in your C:\Users\UserName\gmvault-db C:\Users\YOURNAME\gmvault-db directory. You can move this directory if you want. My email backup was over 350,000 files emails so I moved it to my larger D drive by using the -d option on the command line.

After this multi-hour sync, sync was finally done, I wanted to make sure I updated the archive every week or so with a backup backups of new emails.

Create a Scheduled Gmail Backup with Task Scheduler

Go to your start menu and type "Task" and run the Task Scheduler. Some folks don't even know this exists!

On the right side click "Create Basic Task."

Create Basic Task Wizard - Task Name

Make it weekly or monthly or whatever makes you happy.

Create Basic Task Wizard - Setting time

Your action is Start a Program

Create Basic Task Wizard - Start a program

Make the Program like this and check your path first.first.

"C:\Users\YOURNAME\AppData\Local\gmvault\gmvault.bat"

Under Arguments, make it use sync -t quick like this. Be sure to use the -t quick or you'll get ALL your email again!

sync -t quick youremail@address.com 

optionally you can point to a specific backup directory like this. If there is a space in your path, use quotes around it.it.

sync -t quick youremail@address.com -d D:\gmvault-db

I also made my task start in the same directory as GmVault, so "C:\Users\YOURNAME\AppData\Local\gmvault"

Create a Basic Task - final screen with all options set

My scheduled task ended up with command line arguments like this:

sync -t quick scott@myemail.com -d D:\gmvault-db

You can test it by right clicking on it in the Task Scheduler list and clicking "Run." If you need to debug it or if it just starts and then quickly disappears, go into your gmvault.bat and add a "pause" command before the "exit" command to keep the window open long enough to see any errors.

Here's my automatic Gmail backup in action:

GMVault automatically backing up my email

Hope this helps you!


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© 2012 Scott Hanselman. All rights reserved.
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A Tour of a Singaporean Supermarket

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Slideshow

VIEW SLIDESHOW: A Tour of a Singaporean Supermarket

[Photographs: Max Falkowitz]

You've already seen a proper Singaporean wet market; now it's time to take a look at another way Singaporeans shop that's more familiar to Westerners—no fish gut-strewn floors, to start.

FairPrice, owned by the National Trade Union Congress trade cooperative, is one of the largest grocery chains in the country, with 100 supermarkets and additional convenience stores.

There are plenty of Western goods on the shelves (cereal and Aunt Jemima), but also some distinctly Southeast Asian goods: samval, shrimp paste, pandan, and the like. You see some curious juxtapositions in the aisles: brie and gorgonzola alongside twelve types of tofu, or ketchup next to sambal, but that's just how they roll in Singapore.

Take a tour through a typical FairPrice supermarket in the slideshow.

More Snapshots from Singapore

About the author: Max Falkowitz is the editor of Serious Eats: New York. You can follow him on Twitter at @maxfalkowitz.

Note: Max's recent trip to Singapore was arranged by the Singapore Tourism Board. Special thanks to our awesome guide, Garry Koh.


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