Archive for January 21, 2012

Saturday, January 21, 2012


FreeCoder at Slashdot:

…there’s big difference between RapidShare and the likes of Dropbox. MegaUpload, RapidShare etc is clearly profiting from copyrighted content. They pay users to upload popular files, and in 99% of cases it is pirated content. In turn they profit when users want to access those files. It’s a huge “industry,” and there will most likely be many more arrests when the list of affiliates that directly made money by uploading copyrighted content without permission goes public.

Dr. Hellno:

I won’t consider the legal matters here, but the emails cited in the indictment paint a pretty clear picture of intent. They show that:

A) In many cases, Megaupload employees knew that *specific* files on the site were in violation of copyright, but they took no action to remove the content

B) Knowing specific files were copyrighted, megaupload still paid out rewards to those files’ uploaders

C) In a few instances, staff members shared links to copyrighted content with eachother and with the internet at large.

Those are just the most egregious points, which basically demolish their claim of safe-harbor. But there’s more: The claim of conspiracy at first sounds ridiculous and overblown, but it begins to make sense when the indictment describes all the ways Megaupload is alleged to have actively worked to conceal piracy. Claims of DCMA compliance are shot to pieces by an allegation that certain links were the subject of takedown notices, but remained active for over a year.

I had been wondering how MegaUpload was different from, say, YouTube. These seem like important details that I did not see in the general media accounts of the takedown. It looks like the indictment will be interesting reading for those of us who don’t know much about this corner of the Internet.

Update (2012-04-09): Interesting update from ArsTechnica:

The government has copied “selected” data from the Megaupload servers, but it has not even revealed to the defendants which evidence has been preserved. Megaupload argues that the government may have “cherry picked” the data that will cast Megaupload in the most negative possible light. The company argues that allowing the rest of the data to be destroyed will make it impossible for Megaupload to unearth evidence that could cast the company in a more favorable light.

Update (2012-04-21): TorrentFreak:

If Judge O’Grady is to be believed all this damage could very well have been for nothing because the authorities simply can’t serve foreign companies. This could lead one to wonder whether the whole setup was to simply destroy Mega’s businesses.

Update (2012-05-30): TorrentFreak (via Hacker News):

A New Zealand court has ruled that the U.S. Government must hand over the evidence they have against Megaupload so Kim Dotcom and other employees can properly defend themselves against the pending extradition request. The U.S. refused to comply but Judge Harvey concluded that this would be unfair. He further noted that the entire U.S. case stands or falls on the strength of the alleged copyright infringement charges.

iOS Lacks a Document Filing System

Pierre Lebeaupin:

The worst thing is, with the exception of file transfer in iTunes (which pretty much only shifts the issue to the computer, with some more overhead), the situation is the exact same as it was in iPhone OS 2.0 when third-party apps first became possible. iCloud solves exactly none of these problems: it is great to simplify working between your different devices, but it brings nothing to the single-device case. This has nothing to do with the hardware limitations of any iOS device, this is entirely the doing of the iOS software; in fact, while this is acceptable for the iPhone, I feel this gap already limits the potential of the iPad unnecessarily; and regardless of how you think it will happen (my take, which I will elaborate in a later post: Mac OS X is the new Classic), it is clear Apple has Big Plans for iOS, but it is hard to take iOS seriously for any device used for work if Apple hasn’t even shipped a first version of a document filing system, which is quite a design task and will require multiple iterations to get right for most people.

This goes back to what I was saying when the iPad was first released. It’s simpler because there’s no filesystem, but they didn’t find a better way of solving the problems that a filesystem solves. They mostly just punted. iCloud seems to be evidence that Apple is not interested in this area, or perhaps really does think that flat, app-specific silos are enough.

Update (2012-01-21): Jesper:

The current system of having everyone implement the fundamentals isn’t holding up very well. Everyone has to solve the same set of problems and not everyone are equipped to do that or will make odd workarounds. Even the good workarounds will need to be learned on an app-by-app basis and the assumed inherited complexity of file systems has been replaced by other complexity, both for the developers and the users of the app.

Apple can’t wish this away. If it doesn’t provide leadership, the community will evolve ways to let people do what they need to do, and they’ll be less elegant and standardized than if they were supported at the OS level.

Update (2012-02-02): Lukas Mathis:

Organizing documents based on their app is akin to organizing notes based on the pencil you used to write them.

iBooks Author File Format

John Gruber:

iBooks still offers full support for the open standard ePub format. So as a loose analogy, I see ePub being as to the new iBooks format as mobile web apps are to native iOS App Store apps — one is an open industry standard fully supported by Apple, the other a closed proprietary platform with superior creation tools and end-user experience, which if you want to use, you must use on Apple’s terms.

Holding Out for an ePub Hero

Serenity Caldwell:

Between the Kindle Store, iBookstore, and Google Bookstore, the ebooks market has exploded.

And yet, our tools to build these books are as primitive as those for early 1990s HTML. There is exactly one program that can edit ePub files directly—Sigil—and while I applaud what the app strives to do, it’s being worked on by just one developer and ported to multiple operating systems. As a result, it’s unpolished, unoptimized for the Mac, slow, and bug-ridden.

Apple’s Textbook Plan Feels Like a Blast From the Past

Glenn Fleishman:

Kids are bored. The iPad is fun and engaging, Schiller explained. This is the same contention made for decades, and I challenge readers to find any longitudinal studies tracking students who have used or are using packaged multimedia-enhanced instruction showed measured and consistent improvement over control groups.

This immediately made me think of a quote from Steve Jobs:

I used to think that technology could help education. I’ve probably spearheaded giving away more computer equipment to schools than anybody else on the planet. But I’ve had to come to the inevitable conclusion that the problem is not one that technology can hope to solve. What’s wrong with education cannot be fixed with technology. No amount of technology will make a dent.

Based on my experience with iBooks 2 on an iPad 1, I much prefer paper textbooks. This is not to say that electronic textbooks are a bad idea. The speed and resolution will improve. In the last year, I came to prefer reading non-textbooks on a Kindle. In time, I presume that tablets will catch up to paper textbooks.

But, like Fleishman, I do not see this as a revolution in education. Will this ultimately save money for students and schools? Will it improve educational outcomes? I’m skeptical. A lighter backpack is no small thing, however.

Update: (2012-01-24): Steve McCabe:

As it stands, iBooks textbooks offers very little that hasn’t been on offer for nearly twenty years. Far from reinventing the textbook, Apple have simply taken an existing concept and applied it to a new medium, with, it appears, relatively little in the way of points of difference due to the particular nature of the iPad platform. And so, instead of static text and static images on a page, we are now presented with static text and some moving images on a page. This is a small step forward in terms of paper textbooks, but, in terms of the state of the art with regard to multimedia presentation, it is, absent scripting, possibly even a retrograde step.

It’s not that there’s something wrong with the iBooks textbooks, but rather that Apple’s presentation really oversold them. As John Siracusa says, Apple trotted out the same 20-year-old arguments that we’ve all heard before as if they were new. This gives the impression that Apple is ignorant of history, or thinks this time will magically be different, or perhaps is more focused on selling devices than on the educational results.