Tag Archives: iiNet

The smokescreen of a Smartphone War

Yesterday’s news gives us ‘The secret smartphone war over the struggle for control of the user’ (at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/sep/29/smartphone-war-operators-user-phone-service) held my initial interest for about 7.0 seconds. You see, it is an interesting story, but it is not the real battle that is being fought. As I personally see it, the secondary war is about the agreements that the Android phone makers seem to have with one another. That war we are kept in the dark about. In the end, the Telecom companies want you to be dependent on them, their products and their solutions. They give you some BS reasoning of ‘we weren’t offered that option‘, whilst their head office is all about containment. They only hold they have is by pushing you in a position where you need a new phone EVERY year. That is the service path we are all getting pushed into. Which is one reason why outright buy seems to be so overpriced in many cases. For the next bit we need to see GSMArena.com. There we find the following parts:

32/64 GB, 4 GB RAM
32/64 GB, 4 GB RAM
32 GB, 3 GB RAM (EVA-L19/EVA-L09)
64 GB, 4 GB RAM (EVA-L29)

You would think it is all the same, right? The last two are the same brand. I will get back to the list, but for now, what you would like to do is to check where you can get a 64GB edition, and for some that list is zero, you see, in Australian (not the only place) they are making sure that you cannot get the 64GB edition, in an age of consumerism, is that not weird? In that regard, Apple is the only one offering this, because of different reasons.

In all this, I have used my phone with a philosophy. It is a simple one and in my life of budgets an essential one. In the past, I learned the hard way early in life that chasing technology is a race that costs money and never leaves you with a true advantage, the gaming industry in the 90’s on PC were all about that. The mobile industry, like the PC industry learned this from the arms industry and they were really good students. So no matter what competitiveness they have, if they agree on a few ground rules, there will be enough space for exploitation for all of them. Now, in 2015, Huawei decided to rock the boat and as such they got a larger share than ever before, now that they are on par, they seem to go with the average lot of them. My hopes are that LG tries a same approach, which will cost Huawei et al dearly this year.

When you have been around your mobile for a little while, you will see that storage is (nearly) everything on a mobile and with marshmallow, a 32GB system will end up having about 22GB space left. There is the Android system and the mandatory apps, the amount leaves you with 10GB less. This is not a big deal you think, but over the year we will see an exponential growth of apps and they cost space too. Some people already learned this lesson with Pokémon Go and all the pics that were taken. They were realising how much space was lost. Now, we know that you can add a SD card and store pictures there, but apps must be run from the main storage and those apps are growing too. So over 2 years you would have run out of space. Meaning that you either clean up your system, or buy a mobile with more space. This you might have learned if you had an iPad or iPod. Storage was running low for some a lot faster than they bargained for.

So in this age, when the difference between 32GB and 64GB is one component which is in total a mere $32.87 more expensive, why would we even consider a 32GB system? Because at this point, the mobile warranty of 24 months could be served completely and we would not need another phone one year later! In addition, after 2 years we would have the freedom to choose a better and cheaper provider, so as I see it, neither Optus nor Telstra wants a 64GB phone in their arsenal and the only reason is that the iPhone is that size is because Apple has in general a global approach to their hardware.

Now let’s look again:

32/64 GB, 4 GB RAM – Samsung
32/64 GB, 4 GB RAM – LG
32 GB, 3 GB RAM (EVA-L19/EVA-L09) – Huawei P9
64 GB, 4 GB RAM (EVA-L29) – Huawei P9

Unless LG takes advantage of the option they have now, none of them offers the 64GB version in Australia! Is that not weird? Amazon UK offers both, and at times the 64GB is definitely more expensive, yet consider that at $100 more (for some a little more), you have peace of mind that this phone can last you 2 years without storage issues. That seems a pretty big deal to me. In addition, unless Android past Nougat (V7) grows a massive part, the user will have plenty of space to update their system, if the update would be offered. In addition, with all the other stuff we carry (photo’s music and so on), twice the size is pretty much the only way to go.

So why the mobile providers refuse their product to be on sale is just beyond me and the fact that none of them are offering a product in a place seems to be massively out of bounds. With Huawei the fact that there is a single slot and duo slot 32GB option makes even less sense to me. In my mind, this is all about control of the users, and controlling where the users go, which is a limitation on freedom devices have never offered before, so in my mind it was not with the consumers consent. The fact that Samuel Gibbs did not mention that part in their article is not as quoted “Fewer purchases mean the big smartphone players are now under pressure to extract more revenue from their existing user base, which is easier for Apple and its App Store than others reliant on Google’s Play Store, and to try to convince users that life is greener on their side of the smartphone divide“, it is to make sure that continuity prevails, to some extent for the smartphone makers, to the larger extent to mobile providers to keep them in their not seeking another providers place!

In addition the quote “At the same time, the mobile phone operators are in a similar competition. Switching between the major phone networks has always been an issue, whether it’s over price, customer service or the latest handset“, more important it is over bandwidth and facilitation, the more limits the hardware has, the less issues of competition the provider needs to deal with. So is Samuel Gibbs informing you on some ‘secret war’ or is he trying to keep your sight away from the options that matter? The fact that phone limitations is not part of his view (which could be because the UK offers both models) is equally disturbing that he did not look at this from a global point of view, when you are not made aware of what is by me expected and therefore implied is the limitation of hardware offered is as I see it, part of a secret war that they require you not to be aware of. If that is done intentionally, what do you think is in play?

So as the Samsung Note 7 is now an ISIS tool (when you install the 10 second countdown app) and only LG remains to go public with their new model, they now have an option to capture a much larger share of the audience as several of the participating parties refused to consider the consumers’ needs and seems to cater to the telecom request of limitation. LG has an option to grow much stronger in this market than ever before. Apple as IOS has a different situation and as seen on many fronts they have created their own walls of disturbance, so LG could even go after that lot, but we must respect that there is a huge offset between IOS and Android and as such, people are at times less willing to switch there. For now the latest rumours are that the V20 will start the pre-orders this Sunday in the US and European markets will be getting them, yet there is at present no confirmation for both the UK and Australia. So we will have to see about that part too.

The article had more. So consider my words and now see this quote: “Bibby says: “Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery. Flexibility like this is just the next stage of innovation so we’re not surprised to see others adopting it. Manufacturers are trying to ensure that more of their own handsets are sold in the market. They’re trying to clearly compete with each other.”” I disagree with Nina Bibby, marketing and consumer director for O2. The quote is not untrue, but incorrect. It is the presentation of what they want the issue to be, because is sets our mind at rest. I believe that the more correct quote is “They’re trying to clearly compete with each other within the agreed limits of the presented options“, which is not entirely the same! In that same view, the limitations due to the telecom agreements are equally in question. The fact that none offered the complete spectrum is just as much of a worry. Because it is like a corporation trying to make sure that its employees can never truly become independent, because that would be too dangerous for their own continuation. The second part in all this is the entire upgrade service program. It creates brand dependency, which is not essentially a bad thing, but guess what! I reckon that soon thereafter the 64GB option will come and there will be a churn for 12 and 24 months. At that point, the telecom providers would want a phone to last as long as possible. It could be in different ways. For example after 12 months 65% off and a $1 upgrade after 24 months. This is just speculation, so this is not a given, yet overall not that far-fetched.

The most interesting quote is at the end “For now, the battle for control of the phone in your hand is happening behind closed doors. Soon we’ll begin to see the phone-as-a-service idea pushed by one of the big manufacturers, but only once the operators are no longer crucial to sales“. The first part is that not all of the closed doors is about the phone, bandwidth has been a forever war between iiNet, Optus and Telstra in Australia, and the phone-as-a-service is not all in the hands of the manufacturers, that will come soon enough (in one case it already is) in hands of the Telecom companies, because that is a direct factor for customer loyalty, who does not see the $45 a month phone as the margin, it is the $90 a month subscription where their margin is and that part can be set to non-taxation a lot faster too. The phone is merely a hardware write-off, increasing their ROI.

So when you consider your new phone do not be fooled by the SD slot, wonder why the full version is out nearly everywhere else, except Australia? For Australians, consider one nice issue, the Kiwi’s do get the 64GB edition several stores have it available to order. So, do you feel special now, of just used by both the handset sales people and your telecom provider? More important, what other issues did that secret war of smart phones not inform you about? Perhaps you haven’t seen the implications of not having a choice in certain cases. People have been so busy bashing iPhone’s Apple that they forget that Android phones have their own collection of imposed limitations for the consumer.

 

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Filed under Finance, IT, Media

The name of the sponsor

The article that was in the Guardian on Friday, gives us a few issues. You see, I have been looking at several issues in the tech world and I overlooked this one (there is only so much reading that can be done in a 24 hour range and it is a big planet). You see the article ‘Yahoo faces questions after hack of half a billion accounts’ (at https://www.theguardian.com/technology/2016/sep/23/yahoo-questinos-hack-researchers) gives us the goods from the very beginning. The quote “Yahoo’s admission that the personal data of half a billion users has been stolen by “state-sponsored” hackers leaves pressing questions unanswered, according to security researchers“, is one I would go with ‘and the evidence?‘, which gives us all kinds of related connections. The quote “Jeremiah Grossman, head of security strategy at infosec firm SentinelOne, said: “While we know the information was stolen in late 2014, we don’t have any indication as to when Yahoo first learned about this breach. This is an important detail in the story.”” is only one of a few issues at the heart of the matter. You see, when we look at the issues that are the plague of these start-up firms (Yahoo and Sony), we should think that they are start-up firms or they are massively negligent. In both cases their routers allowed for the transfer of massive amounts of data. As they are the same size in start-up (sorry, sarcasm prevails), we need to wonder how a few hundred million packages fall between the cracks of vision of whatever security element their IT has. We could wait until someone states that there is no security on that level and the race is truly on then!

This whilst additional support as seen stated by Chris Hodson, EMEA chief information security officer at enterprise security firm Zscaler, when we read: ““With no technical details included in Yahoo’s report about how the data was exfiltrated, just that it was, it’s impossible to assess credibility of the ‘state sponsored’ claim“, a statement I agree, but in addition, I also wonder why we aren’t seeing any reference or initial response from the FBI that this was from North Korea. It fits the time frame doesn’t it? First a dry run on Yahoo and the actual heist was Sony. Or perhaps some players are figuring out that North Korea was never an element and that someone clever enough found a flaw and hit both Yahoo and Sony. The quote “both from the date of the hack, almost two years ago, and from the first appearance of the dumped data on the dark web almost two months ago where it was being sold by a user named “Peace of Mind””, the speculation comes to mind: ‘perhaps this person is the second owner and this person is reselling acquired data’, which would make sense in several capitalisic ways. The article also enlightens what I believe to be a callous approach to security: “The breach also highlights a strong problem with “security questions”, the common practice of letting users reset passwords by answering questions about their first house or mother’s maiden name. Yahoo did not encrypt all the security questions it stored, and so some are readable in plaintext. While it may be irritating to have to change a stolen password, it is somewhat worse to have to change a stolen mother’s maiden name.” The insensitive disregard is clear when the security question is not encrypted and mum’s maiden name is given in plain text, adding to the personal data the thieves borrowed (long-term). Now, we know that there are in these situations several questions, and not all are really about privacy sensitive based data (like a favourite pet), but consider the 2013 movie ‘Now You See Me‘ Consider the dialogue in the New Orleans Show scene:

Jack Wilder: How could we, Art? We don’t have your password.
Henley Reeves: We’d need access to information we could never get our hands on.
Daniel Atlas: Yes, security questions, for instance, like, I don’t know, your mother’s maiden name or the name of your first pet.
Merritt McKinney: Where would we get that information, Art? You certainly would never tell us.

A movie gives us the danger to our goods a year before this data is stolen and nobody presses the alarm bell? The only part that would be even funnier if this was a Sony movie, but no, it was Summit Entertainment who brought this gemstone! Now, we know that life is not a movie, yet the fact that this part is stored as plain text, perhaps not the best solution! In addition as IT developers tend to be lazy, how many other firms, especially those who are a lot smaller, how are they storing this data? Also in plain text?

You see, I have seen parts of this issue too often. Too many firms have no real grasp of non-repudiation and go through the motions so that they seem (read: present themselves) to be about security, yet not really security driven. Because if the client doesn’t want it (many are too lazy), they have opted for it and they are in the clear. Yet when we see that the security questions are in plain text, questions should be asked, very serious questions I might add!

There is one more side to all this, the Guardian raises it with: “what happens to the company’s multi-billion dollar merger with Verizon now? Kevin Cunningham, president and founder at identity company SailPoint, argues that the breach should already be priced in“, we then see the issues of thoroughness raised from Verizon, but in all this, the data theft does not makes sense. You see, if my speculation is true and “Peace of Mind” is the first sales iteration, was this ID the only customer? If so, how come that the sale took this long, the timeout between the event in 2014 and the optional sale a few months ago is weird, as accounts change so quickly, the power and value is in quick sales. To put it in perspective, selling the data to 10 people for a total of 5% of the value is safer then awaiting for one person getting 70% of the value 90 days later. This is a movers and shakers world, the 90 day person is a perhaps and these people are about the ‘cash now’. The market stall people! So in this an 800 day customer implies that there might have been ulterior reasons. Which one(s) I can only speculate on, and I prefer not to do that at present. Now, in that side, it is of course possible that this was ‘state-sponsored’ and it was sold on to keep the wolves at bay, but that too is speculation with absolutely no data to back the speculation up.

Verizon might have taken a calculated level of risk in acquiring Yahoo, yet if the data transgression was never divulged, would this be a case of fraud? The US has the “benefit of bargain” rule, so there could be a decent case of represented and actual value. In addition if we allow for Special damages from a legally recognizable injury to be held to be the cause of that injury, with the damage amounts to specificity. If the data theft would have been known, the value of the firm would have been a lot lower.

Unless this was clearly disclosed to Verizon (I actually do not know), Verizon might have a case, which would be disastrous for Yahoo.

If we consider the news from July at NBC (at http://www.cnbc.com/2016/07/25/verizon-to-acquire-yahoo.html), the setting is not just “Microsoft, Yahoo and AOL lag far behind and have lost market share“, there is no guarantee that those hit by the hack will remain in their Yahoo setting. Google has made it far too easy for people to switch over. The effort made in the past to transfer towards Google could inspire those people to switch to Google, import their mails and start with little or no loss at all. Which means that it is not impossible that Verizon after the merger remains a one digit digital marketing group, something I feel certain Verizon never counted on.

So where is this going?

There are two sides to this, not only is this about cyber security, or the lack thereof. The fact that Verizon has no unlimited data and those with Yahoo accounts who had them will now see their prices go up by a lot (when is this not about money?). Verizon has a 100GB shared option at $450 a month, which is beyond ridiculous. In Australia, iiNet (an excellent provider) offers 250GB for $60 a month and in the UK British Telecom offers a similar plan for no more than £21 a month (which is about $35), considering that BT is not the cheapest on the block, I have to wonder how Verizon will continue, when people have to switch, because their music apps (radio and so on) drain their data account at 6-8GB per day (a harsh lesson a friend of mine learned). Meaning that Verizon is actually a disservice to open internet and free speech. As I see it, free speech is only free if the listener isn’t charged for listening, or better stated, when certain solutions are locked to be not via Wi-Fi, meaning charged via bandwidth. So the accounts were one side, the amount of data breeches that we are seeing now (on both the Verizon and Yahoo side) imply that not only are they too expensive, they aren’t as secure as they are supposed to be and in addition, cyber laws are blatantly failing its victims. Having your data in plain text at $450 a month seems a little too unacceptable, merely because the odds to keep your fortune in Las Vegas tend to be better than this.

So now consider the sponsor, the people behind the screens on both the corporate and hacking side. So let’s take a look

Corporate

Here the need for security is essential, yet there is clear indication that those aware of spreadsheets (read: Board of Directors) are in equal measure naive and blatantly unaware that data security is essential and not the $99 version in this case. The cost of secure data is ignored and in many cases blatantly disregarded. The Yahoo case is inferior to the Verizon data transgressions that have been reported in this year alone. It is so nice to read on how the health industry is hit by organised crime, yet the amount of theft from their own systems is a lot less reported on. I find most amusing the text that the Verizon Data Breach Investigation Report shows: “Yes. Our vulnerability management solutions identify and fix architectural flaws in POS and other patientfacing systems“, “Yes. Our identity and access management solutions prevent the use of weak passwords, the main cause of data breaches in the healthcare industry” and “Yes. Our intrusion detection and threat-management solutions help detect and mitigate breaches more quickly, limiting the damage caused” (at http://www.verizonenterprise.com/resources/factsheet/fs_organized-crime-drives-data-theft-in-the-healthcare-industry_en_xg2.pdf), I reckon that a massive overhaul of their own systems has a slightly higher priority at present. In addition there is no information on how secure the Verizon Data Cloud is. It doesn’t matter who provides it (as I see it), and I reckon we see that iteration hit the news the moment we learn that the UK Ministry of Defence Cloud gets tweaked to another server that is not under their control. It is important to realise that I am NOT scaremongering, the issue is that too many players have kept the people and corporations in the dark regarding monitoring options, intrusion detection and countermeasures, with the cloud, any successful intrusion has the real danger that the data hack is more complete and a lot larger in data loss. Moreover, Microsoft and Microsoft employees have one priority, Microsoft! Consider that any Microsoft employee might not be as forthcoming with Cyber transgressions, no matter what agreed upon. After the agreement, any internal memo could sidestep a reportable transgression. It is a reality of corporate life. In this, until the proper military staff members get trained, the Ministry of Defence (read: as well as GCHQ to some extent) will be catching up through near inhumane levels of required training, which gets the Ministry burnout issues soon enough.

Hackers

No matter how small, these attacks (yes plural) required serious hardware and access to tools that are not readily available. So whomever involved, they are either organised crime, or people connected to people with serious cash. This all gets us a different picture. I am not stating that some hackers work for reasons other than ideological. The rent in mum’s basement and hardware needs to be paid for, if not that, than the electricity bill that will be in excess of $130 a month. It might be trivial to mention, yet these little things add up. Hardware, electricity, storage, it gives the rising need of a sponsor for these hackers. There is no way to tell whether this is ideological (to show it can be done), technological (selling the flaws back to the makers of the solution), or criminal (to sell the acquired data to a competitor or exploiter). We can assume or speculate, but in reality, without additional evidence it is merely a waste of words.

So even if we know the name of the sponsor, this hopefully shows that the need to divulging information on data transgression has been way too light. In the past there was a ‘clarity’ that it was onto the firm to give out, but as they seemingly see it as a hazard to their wealth, too many victims are kept in the dark and as such, the financial danger to those victims is rising in an unbalanced way. If you would doubt my words, consider the article at http://www.geek.com/games/sony-psn-hack-is-only-the-4th-largest-data-breach-of-all-time-1390855/, which was set in June 2009. Geek is not the news cycle you might desire, but the summary is fine and confirmable. The hack to the Heartland Payment Systems January 20th, 2009 might be one of the more serious ones, the 130 million records was more complete and could have a more devastating effect on the US population then most others. From my point of view, a massive shift to proactive data security should have been law no later than 2010, I think that we can safely say that this never happened to the extent required, which is another nice failure of the political parties at large and as such, this could get a lot uglier soon enough. The article also shows a massive Sony failing as there have been 6 large breaches in 2011 alone, so the Sony hack of 2012 shows to be a continuing story of a digital firm who cannot get their act together. That was never in question, in combination with the latest revelations, there is the added pressures that this cannot be allowed to continue and these firms need to start being held criminally negligible for transgressions on their systems. Just like in torts regarding trespass, it should be actionable perse. In addition, the hackers should be held in that same way, with the bounty changed to no less than double digit jail with no option for parole. The mere realisation that there is a high price for these transgressions might be the only way to stop this and in this age should not be a distinguishing factor, so any teenager hoping for an adventure with a nice pay package could end up not getting laid until they turn 30. The last part is unlikely to be a reality ever, but the fact that this is where we should have been going needs to be stated, for the mere reason that a shown failure of nearly a decade is no longer an option to ignore, not when the stakes are getting to be this high.

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Filed under IT, Law, Military, Politics

You keep what you kill

The business section of the Guardian had an interesting article yesterday. It comes from David Pegg and it is about targeting customers. In the article we see a prominent picture of Robert Redford (at http://www.theguardian.com/business/2015/jul/15/sky-broadband-customers-targeted-allegedly-pirating-robert-redford-film). So what is at play here?

Here we see ‘US firm TCYK, apparently named after film The Company You Keep, made Sky hand over details of customers accused of downloading movie‘, which comes with the opening quote “Dozens of UK broadband customers have received letters from a US firm accusing them of pirating a little-known Robert Redford film and inviting them to pay a financial settlement on pain of further legal action“. You see TCYK got a court order against Sky Broadband, which must now hand over customer details of those TCYK accuses of using torrent sites to download and distribute the films.

These people now get the offer of paying a hefty fine or end up in a legal battle.

So, how does that work in Australia? Well, here we depend on the Copyright Act 1968, where we see in section 36(1) “Subject to this Act, the copyright in a literary, dramatic, musical or artistic work is infringed by a person who, not being the owner of the copyright, and without the licence of the owner of the copyright, does in Australia, or authorizes the doing in Australia of, any act comprised in the copyright“, which means you made the movie, you are licensed to handle the movie, or you own the copyright, if you are none of these three, you become the infringer.

Now we get to the nitty gritty of the act (sections 43A and 43B) when we consider ‘temporary reproductions‘, which starts of nicely in section 43A(1) with “The copyright in a work, or an adaptation of a work, is not infringed by making a temporary reproduction of the work or adaptation as part of the technical process of making or receiving a communication“, with the crown part ‘temporary reproduction of the work or adaptation as part of the technical process’, which takes Sky Broadband out of the loop in all this, because Sky just sends packages from point A to Point B and as such, they do not keep any parts of that they communicate, they only keep the logs of what is communicated.

In subsection 2 of section 43A we see “Subsection (1) does not apply in relation to the making of a temporary reproduction of a work, or an adaptation of a work, as part of the technical process of making a communication if the making of the communication is an infringement of copyright“, which might put Sky in the hotspot, yet Sky is at this point an innocent disseminator of information (you know that anti-censoring part people all love), so Sky must prove that by handing over the records. This now counters the (what I would regard as fake indignation) from Michael Coyle, a solicitor advocate at Lawdit Solicitors, who stated regarding the act of Sky Broadband “They should be fighting tooth and nail not to have this information released”, to which I would state “Yes, because we should always protect the people engaging in illegal acts!” more important is the part that comes next “TCYK says that it hired a “forensic computer analyst” to identify IP addresses of computers that were making the film available online” so it seems that those watching the movie are not high on the list, it is about the distributors, those who made the movie available online. So there are two parts. The first part ‘temporary reproductions’, is a part we are still looking at, yet ‘distribution’, which we will also look at.

As Sky is protecting itself by showing themselves to be innocent disseminators, we need to see the logs, part of that is to give evidence that you (or they) are working on a temporary reproduction.

Temporary what?

OK, let’s take YouTube, when you watch a movie, a trailer, a TV Show, you are looking at a temporary reproduction. The movie is streamed into the memory of your computer and once the link is severed at ANY GIVEN MOMENT, the movie cannot be watched and it cannot be re-watched’ it must be pushed into the memory of your computer again. This is different from Torrent systems where a file, temporary or not is actually saved to your computer. This is the confusing part, whether it is a temporary file (what the people refer to as temporary) is actually ‘just a file’ that file remains on your computer, just like many other ‘temporary’ files.

I know, it is still confusing! Let me elaborate, when windows or a windows application needs to handle data, it created a file that changes all the time, we refer to them as temporary files. The UNIX reference is much better, they are called ‘scratch files’. So if you download a PDF, it will create a file, and that file will capture all the packages and add them together. That is done until the file is complete, when the download is completed the file gets written becoming the permanent file. This is the normal way for operating systems to work. The issue is that something is written (read: saved) onto your local destination, when this is done, it is by sheer definition no longer a temporary file. this is the part that is taken care of in Section 43A, now as long as there is no way to make the ‘temporary file’ work via an application of any kind, you can also rely on section 43B of the act where we see in subsection 1 “Subject to subsection (2), the copyright in a work is not infringed by the making of a temporary reproduction of the work if the reproduction is incidentally made as a necessary part of a technical process of using a copy of the work“. This now shows my explanation of temporary reproduction, where we refer to ‘incidentally made as a necessary part of a technical process‘, which could make that part a no go area, was it not for the first part where we saw ‘Subject to subsection (2)’, which is now the issue as this does not apply as per section 43B (2)(a) relying on both (i) which states “if the reproduction is made from an infringing copy of the work“, and the irritating use of the ‘or’ statement for (ii) “a copy of the work where the copy is made in another country and would be an infringing copy of the work if the person who made the copy had done so in Australia“, which takes care of any ‘border’ issues.

So, here we are with an infringed work, so what about the words of Michael Coyle?

Well, for this we need to look at Part V remedies and offenses, specifically ‘Division 2AA Limitation on remedies available against carriage service providers‘, which now puts poor poor old Sky Broadband in the limelight! It is a bit of a puzzle, but in short it amounts to “A carriage service provider must satisfy the relevant conditions set out in Subdivision D before the limitations on remedies apply” (a bit paraphrased), this is set in section 116AH, where we see that the carriage service must provide the following two elements for ALL category transgressions

  1. The carriage service provider must adopt and reasonably implement a policy that provides for termination, in appropriate circumstances, of the accounts of repeat infringers
  2. If there is a relevant industry code in force—the carriage service provider must comply with the relevant provisions of that code relating to accommodating and not interfering with standard technical measures used to protect and identify copyright material

This is only the first of several elements that address the part that the Guardian stated “TCYK says that it hired a “forensic computer analyst” to identify IP addresses of computers that were making the film available online“, that part is also needed for Sky Broadband to prove that limitations ‘a’ and ‘b’ were adhered to. For this we need to take a look to a case (mentioned below) where we see at [697] “The question whether a person has supplied the means with which copyright has been infringed raises its own difficult issues. The primary judge concluded that the BitTorrent system was the means by which the appellants’ copyright was infringed. But I cannot see why the means with which the primary infringers committed acts of infringement must be so narrowly defined. The primary infringers used computers which were no less essential to their infringing activities than was the BitTorrent system. The same is true of the internet connections with which they made the appellants’ films available online

More important, at [505] we see “It follows that customers, by entry into the CRA, consented to iiNet disclosing and using information, including personal information as defined, for the purpose of iiNet administering and managing the services provided pursuant to the CRA. Part of that administration and management includes compliance with the CRA. In circumstances where iiNet has received evidence of breaches of its CRA (for example, cl 4.2(a) and (e)) the customer has necessarily consented to iiNet using information it possesses, including personal information, to determine whether to take action under cl 14.2 of the CRA“, which all comes from the case Roadshow Films Pty Limited v iiNet Limited [2011] FCAFC 23, which means that Sky Broadband is going through the motions iiNet in Australia went through 4 years ago. This is important, because the customer relationship agreement is a legal scope that the customer agrees to, which allows for disclosure and more important, now looking at the ‘limitation on remedy’ or bluntly put ‘the massive amount of money TCYK will demand of Sky Broadband if they cannot satisfy conditions’ is where we see actions from Sky Broadband to disclose information.

In addition we need to see the satisfied part “Any transmission of copyright material in carrying out this activity must be initiated by or at the direction of a person other than the carriage service provider“, that part is given by the logs as the viewer did the ‘click here to watch full movie‘, basically that means that the user initiated the act. In addition, there is “The carriage service provider must not make substantive modifications to copyright material transmitted. This does not apply to modifications made as part of a technical process“, showing that whatever solution was used, Sky broadband passed through the information as part of what it is supposed to do as an ISP.

In the end, this will be a messy battle and there is one part that holds less water. It is the statement “Nicolas Chartier, the president of Voltage Pictures, told the Hollywood Reporter this year that he had issued 20,000 lawsuits against individuals accused of pirating the Hurt Locker in order to “make a statement”. “The day after we announced 20,000 lawsuits, the internet downloads of Hurt Locker went down about 40%”“, I am not sure if that will be the end this time, Hollywood has been clasping down in several ways. We see the 10 movies that make a billion, but the hundreds of others that aren’t slicing the cake are not in there, as such Hollywood is now lashing out all over Terra ‘non US’ and we see that it will hit Australia too, even more direct when the TPP becomes fact, at that point having a computer with logs pointing to it with irrefutable evidence might literally cost you your house. There is one side in the TPP that remains undiscussed, especially, as I personally see it behind the closed doors of the TPP negotiations. In all this America relies on fair use, in all this they are eager to criminalise that what is not criminal within the US, it makes for another case.

If we accept the following “Some historians prefer ‘slave’ because the term is familiar and shorter and it accurately reflects the inhumanity of slavery, with ‘person’ implying a degree of autonomy that slavery did not allow for“.

Now we convert that sentence into “Some politicians prefer ‘user’ because the term is familiar and shorter and it accurately reflects the chargeability of usage, with ‘US consumer’ implying a degree of freedom that users are not allowed to have” This is as I see it exactly the core and the broken foundation of the TPP, there is no fair use and there is no accountability on the other side, by all means the TPP ignores the constitutions of more than one nation. This was raised by Alan Morrison in The Atlantic on June 23rd 2015 (at http://www.theatlantic.com/politics/archive/2015/06/tpp-isds-constitution/396389/). The quote in question is “It is January 2017. The mayor of San Francisco signs a bill that will raise the minimum wage of all workers from $8 to $16 an hour effective July 1st. His lawyers assure him that neither federal nor California minimum wage laws forbid that and that it is fine under the U.S. Constitution. Then, a month later, a Vietnamese company that owns 15 restaurants in San Francisco files a lawsuit saying that the pay increase violates the “investor protection” provisions of the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement recently approved by Congress“, this is a situation that could be a reality.

You see, this relates to the case at hand in more than one way. In my view, TCYK has every right to protect its side, the movie it made and the revenue coming from that, so I am not against prosecuting copyright infringement at all. Yet, in all this the shift that TPP will allow for is a situation where ‘investor protection’ will bring a case which will be heard by three private arbitrators; the United States government is the sole defendant in that given scenario. More important, it will be a case brought by “investor-based expectations”, I think we can clearly see the link when we consider “Village Roadshow’s revenue and profits are below expectations, which was down 1.9% to $469.5 million for the six months to December. Net profit was lower by 26.2% to $13.34 million“, so in this case Village Roadshow blamed the weather, yet Village roadshow has blamed piracy on many occasions, so the moment we see a court case based on ‘investor-based expectations’, we should all become weary of this becoming an option the regain revenue from a mismanaged product (which is far-fetched but not out of the question).

So why these jumps?

  1. It might be a movie piracy case in the UK, but the result will hit Australia sooner rather than later and vice versa.
  2. Infringement is a growing ‘market’ and as such, especially in dire times, the industry at large wants to recoup parts of their losses due to infringement, yet will it truly hunt down the real perpetrators?
  3. Too many people rely on their ignorance and ‘they did not know’. This defence is now slowly but surely coming to an end, it is more and more an accepted rule that if you did not buy the article, or pay for it, how come you watched it?
  4. The TPP will change EVERYTHING! This closed door agreement is all about ‘indulging’ big business whilst big business is not playing the game fairly to begin with. In its core it can be seen as a discriminatory violation of ‘fair use’ and ‘constitutional values’.

In all this I jumped at Village Roadshow more than once. Personally I think that Graham Burke has been playing a lose rant game too often, whilst trying not to step on the toes of Telstra and Optus, but that might just be me! In addition, I have additional issues with Federal Attorney-General George Brandis regarding past events. This all links to an article last April in the Sydney Morning Herald (at http://www.smh.com.au/business/village-roadshow-wants-to-work-with-isps-instead-of-suing-movie-pirates-20150416-1mj8cd.html), where we see the quotes “The document centres on a “three strikes” system. An illegal downloader will get three warning notices before a Telco will help copyright holders identify them for potential legal action“, which sounds fine, yet in that part, if at any time the IP address was hijacked, there will not be any evidence absolving the accused person, so the one in court could be the victim in all this. In my view, this is a warped solution to the court case Village Roadshow lost against iiNet, meaning that other avenues need to be taken, which now reflects back to the UK case of Sky Broadband, which could hit Australian legislation. The next quote is “Federal Attorney-General George Brandis and Communications Minister Malcolm Turnbull set a 120-day deadline last December for internet service providers and entertainment companies to create a binding code“, which is indeed central but not in the way reported on. You see, Telstra and Optus are all about bandwidth, the more you use, the better the invoice from their point of view. This is part of the move we see all over the internet in the last article I wrote regarding the short-sightedness of Graham Burke, in the article ‘The real issue is here!‘ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2014/06/17/the-real-issue-here/), which also reflected on the article ‘FACT on Piracy?‘ (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2014/01/03/fact-on-piracy/) from January 3rd 2014. These articles connect through ISP’s like Telstra and Optus who have been rescaling their bandwidth plans. The consequence of losing out on 4 billion a year. Now Telstra offers 50GB for $75 a month, smaller plans no longer exist, they have been pushing for new broadband boundaries so that their revenue is less impacted, so the impact of $40 and $80 a month is now decreased to an optional loss of $20 and $40 a month. It was (as I personally saw it) always about time and retrenching. It has been forever about big business! By the way, it is not just Telstra, others like iiNet have done the same thing, offering a new margin, reset to the width that has never been offered before. It is about rescaling the broadband plans, which results in resetting expectations and preparing for new data usage adherence.

You keep what you kill fits perfectly, it comes from the Riddick movies, which is basically the credo of a survivor, in this day and I agree, in this economy it is about lasting the longest and as such, they keep what they kill, which are the copyright infringers and their technologies. I do not oppose it, as I feel that owners of copyright are entitled to protect their assets. Yet, when we read Graham Burke we see “He said Australian film producers were trying to educate the public rather than sue them“, which might seem true enough, but behind that, I suspect, is the fear that if the Australian Copyright Act 1968 adds the ‘Fair Use’ principle, his education boat will sink on the spot, moreover, whatever US pressure we get from the TPP, gets drowned by Fair Use, because if it is good enough for Americans, it should be good enough for non-Americans too.

Last in all this is Matthew Deaner, executive director of Screen Producers Australia, who made a fair statement in the SMH article “They’re trying to say, ‘this is the right way to go about this stuff, this has a consequence to us’,” Mr Deaner said“, which we can get behind, yet the colourful rants by both Graham Burke and Sony executives on the utter non-realistic loss of billions is a consequence as well. By not properly and realistically setting the view, whilst, as I personally saw it, Sony executives were hiding behind excuses regarding missed targets that were never realistic to begin, which soured the milk of reality and reasonability.

Will this affect Australia?

Roadshow Films Pty Ltd v iiNet Ltd [2012] HCA 16 was settled in the High Court of Australia, yet the essential changes to copyright, the impact of the Trans Pacific Partnership (once signed) will also impact the future. The lack of a ‘fair use’ clause is as I see it an essential first step to protect those not engaged in active copyright infringement as well as allowing for innocuous acts not to be struck down in favour of big business in a draconian way. In all this, US corporations have relied on unfair advantages, whilst overcharging people all over the non-US in a massive way is just beyond belief.

Even now, example, ‘Ex Machina’ is in the US $17, in the UK $20 (both Amazon), which is already a 20% offset, a title which cannot be bought in Australia. The US has segmented commerce to maximise profits, whilst not giving fair options to consumers. The fact that they still enforce multiple region codes to limit fair consumer rights is also not addressed. This is in part what drives piracy. If Mr Burke is so about educating, how about Mr Burke educating the other side of the equation? With video games where price difference can go up to 100% in difference between the US and Australia, a consumer grievance that Federal Attorney-General George Brandis never bothered to properly address. When we consider the issue of price fixing we see “Price fixing occurs when competitors agree on pricing rather than competing against each other. In relation to price fixing, the Competition and Consumer Act refers to the ‘fixing, controlling or maintaining’ of prices“, in this we see a loaded gun of different proportions. You see, Agreements between related companies are also exempt from price fixing, yet, when this difference is set at 100%, whilst the firms place technological restrictions (region codes) on products, as well as denying fair competition, largely pushed by American corporations, where is the fairness in any trade agreement?

If a trade agreement is about removing trade barrier, in that regard, the region codes should be regarded as detrimental to trade, but the TPP is not about equality, it is about giving the power to big business and limiting the rights of consumers, which is why partially because of created limitations movies and videogames are not equally and honestly made available. So as we look at what some can buy more expensive and others cannot buy at all, Mr Burke should in part refrain from stating that ‘one leg is education’ the other is regarding ‘products being available at the same time as other countries’, it would make him instantly paraplegic. Unfairness is what drives infringement. This was shown in the 80’s in Europe in a very direct way as games, movies and music were so unbalanced that a $450 ferry ride to London (from Rotterdam) could pay itself back during one VHS shopping spree (not to mention the price difference in games).

That same principle applies here, so if this is truly about stopping infringement than the first step would have been consumer equality. Yet this is about the US maximising its profits, counteracting whatever ‘free’ trade is supposed to do, so copyright infringement is not going away any day soon, it will soon create new situations, all because those involved seem to be about abolishing what constitutes a fair user, which is why the TPP should never come into effect.

You keep what you kill

The question is, who gets killed in the end, because as more true illumination is given, the bigger the question mark we see on what propels infringement. If there is one real upside to all this, it will be evolution, it will not take long for someone to change the premise of the game and design a new peer to peer cloud solution that resets the legal playing field.

Strife has always been the number one innovator in both war and technology, that part has not and will not change.

 

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Dark side of the moon

The Guardian ended up with an interesting article on Friday. The title ‘Malware is not only about viruses – companies preinstall it all the time‘ (at http://www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/may/22/malware-viruses-companies-preinstall), it is a good article and Richard Stallman is a great man, but there are parts in this article that I have an issue with. Mind you, the man is not telling stories or lying, but he is showing one side of the coin. He is also reinforcing other sides to the software industry that are a definite issue.

The first part is a part I am completely in agreement with “In 1983, the software field had become dominated by proprietary (i.e. non-free) programs, and users were forbidden to change or redistribute them“, a side which I do not oppose. In addition there is “But proprietary developers in the 1980s still had some ethical standards: they sincerely tried to make programs serve their users, even while denying users control over how they would be served“, I have a partial issue with the last bit ‘denying users control over how they would be served‘. I disagree for two reasons.

The first is based on resources. In those days, an IBM PC was a massive behemoth, it had 256Kb memory and if you were really really rich, you also had a 10Mb hard drive. So, yes, the expensive personal computer had less resources then the cheapest $39 Non-smart Nokia phone. Go figure! By the way, that 10Mb hard drive was priced at $1499 in those days. So, user control was an issue, because resources did not allow for them, but soon thereafter, the 512Kb PC was released and there was so much we could do then! No sarcasm here, it was true! In those days I learned and mastered Lotus Symphony an excellent program! This was also a time when we started to get some choices in control, control remained limited, but some control was gained.

Next we see the first part that is an issue, even though he makes a nice point on End User License Agreements. I would like to add the Terms of service as a clear point here, but overall there is a part that is too coloured. The quote “So many cases of proprietary malware have been reported, that we must consider any proprietary program suspect and dangerous. In the 21st century, proprietary software is computing for suckers“.

I cannot completely disagree that Microsoft soured the market by a lot, it has done so in several directions, yet Corporate Earth is at times too stupid to consider growing a brain, which is also part of the problem. It is an element that is shown all over the place. The Netherlands, Sweden, UK, France, Germany, Denmark and even Australia (I worked in all those countries). Instead of sitting down and considering a switch to LINUX with open office, the IT and other elements are just too lazy and too under resourced to push for a change, so the users are no longer people, they are for the most mere meek sheep following the ‘corporate standard‘, which means that they too use windows and Office.

Another direction is the hardware world. Windows comes preinstalled, more important, Windows and Microsoft have been a driving force, forcing people to buy stronger and more expensive computers. Even though many users have not needed any need for more powerful and stronger hardware, Windows forced them to upgrade again and again. Anyone not into gaming and using their computer merely for office activities and browsing mail on the internet should not have needed to upgrade their computer for the better part of 10 years, but that is not the reality, go to any computer shop for windows hardware and we see how the ‘old’ ASUS, ACER, Lenovo, HP or Toshiba no longer hacks it. Which is actually weird, because if you reinstall your old laptop with LINUX and Apache Open Office there is a high chance that you will work in 90% of the time just as fast as with that new $2000 laptop on Windows 7. Setback? You have to install and configure it yourself. Upside? LINUX and Open Office are both free software, no costs and no fees!

Is it not interesting how companies are not jumping on that free horse? Why is that you think? In addition, with all the needs for government costs to go down, why are they not more pro-active to push for a shift towards LINUX? Is it security? This is also odd, because with the massive amount of non-stop security patches, Windows is not that secure to begin with.

So where do I disagree? Well the first clear quote is “Some are designed to shackle users, such as Digital Rights Management (DRM)“, I believe that if a firm makes software, it has every right to prevent illegal use, for a long time, how many people do you know that have a LEGAL version of Adobe? Even when the stars are in your favour. In many Universities, Adobe offers the entire master collection (all their software) for $400, which is an amazing deal! I got my legal versions of both Windows 7 and Microsoft Office Ultimate for an additional $199. Why not buy it? No many just find a download place and get the software for free, in addition you can get the codes. It goes even further that I stumbled on a place in Germany some years ago where they were offering the OEM stickers for PC complete with license key for 20 Mark. I could not tell the difference from the original sticker in the software box I had bought. Do you think that DRM would have been such a push if people just bought their software? I will take it one step further, I feel certain that if every person was charged $275 a year, we all would have the complete Adobe, Windows and Office programs free to download, with no need to illegally copy anything.

But there is still that other side. You see, I still believe that Microsoft and hardware providers have been forcing a technological armistice race upon the consumers, which now adds up to us all wasting resources on iterative junk we should not need. So even though I do not completely agree with Richard Stallman here, he does have a point.

Now we get to an issue that I actually faced without knowing it “Even Android contains malware in a non-free component: a back door for remote forcible installation or deinstallation of any app“, you see, I thought I was bonkers (which I actually are) but for some reason one of my apps had suddenly be removed and not by me. It was not something I needed. I had just downloaded it from Google play out of curiosity, but suddenly it was gone! In addition, on more than one occasion it just decided to update my apps, without my permission. When you have bandwidth issues, seeing a force upgrade which could cost you is not that nice a moment.

Yet, for the most, I remain a loyal fan towards Android, even though at times programs use background resources for reasons unknown, or are they unknown?

We get the next part from the quote “Even humble flashlight apps for phones were found to be reporting data to companies. A recent study found that QR code scanner apps also snoop“, there is a lot more at http://www.facstaff.bucknell.edu/ejsmith/scan.this.or.scan.me.2015.pdf; now we have ourselves a massive issue, although the paper shows that there is a prompt for GPS and the sending of GPS, none of them has the situation where they do not prompt for GPS and still send it. Eric Smith and Dr Nina A. Kollars who wrote the paper give us another consideration on page 8. There we see “Moreover, contemporary privacy norms are increasingly threatened as what initially appears to be signals of consumer preference slide further into determining bigger-picture life patterns and behavior. The term most commonly used to address this creeping phenomenon is the literature on consumer panopticism“, which now refers to ‘Gandy, Oscar H. The Panoptic Sort: A Political Economy of Personal Information‘. Before getting the book (which is worth the purchase), you might want to take a look at a paper by Adam Arvidsson, from the Department of Film and Media Studies, University of Copenhagen, Denmark (at http://www.surveillance-and-society.org/articles1(4)/prehistory.pdf), you see, my partial issue with the article by Richard Stallman becomes slowly visible now. He is right in his view and his vision as he sees this, but you the user did this to yourself! You think that Facebook is ‘free’, that these apps are there merely for amusement (some actually are), their goal is income! Some work the Freemium game market, where games like ‘Book of Heroes‘ gives you a free game, but if you want to grow faster and better in the game, you will have to invest. For the most, these games will rely on the investment from $10-$25 to truly open up, which is, if you consider the amount of hours played still great value. Freemium games also come with that ‘try before you buy’ approach, as you can play the game, but to enjoy it, to get more moves and more joy a few dollars will be essential. The other part that relies on ‘captured data’ did they inform you? If not, there is an issue, but the app programmer will get his pound of flesh, either by cash of by data!

Yet the other side is also true, you see, as Richard mentions and as Adam Arvidsson report on, there are places like Red Sheriff, that rely on hidden script, which is more advanced/intrusive as it keeps track of ALL your online movements. You get this script as a ‘present’ when you visit one of its affiliated sites. Did you the internet user sign up for that? When we see the reference on who pushes this. We see “since most major commercial sites use Redsheriff“, which means that nearly all will somehow be tracked. I for one do not really care that much, but I never signed up for any of it, so should we see this as an invasion to our privacy?

This is where we see that freeware is almost never free.

Yet Richard also alerts us to another state of freedom, or lack thereof! In the quote “If the car itself does not report everywhere you drive, an insurance company may charge you extra to go without a separate tracker“. Can anyone explain to me why it is ANY business of the insurer where we are?

In the end, Richard states three parts, which are fair enough, but overall the issue is missed. The issues reported are:

Individually, by rejecting proprietary software and web services that snoop or track“, here I do not completely agree! I used Adobe as an example for a reason, there is simply no viable alternative, it only became worse when Macromedia bought Adobe (I know it is the other way round, but I will remain a faithful Macromedia fan until the day I die!), there is in addition, no tracking done by Adobe, other than keeping track whether you have a valid license, which I never opposed.

Collectively, by organising to develop free/libre replacement systems and web services that don’t track who uses them“, which I whole heartedly agree with, I am even willing to devote time to this worthy cause (not sure how I could ever size up to the hundreds of Richard Stallman’s, but I am willing to give it a go!

And last there is “Democratically, by legislation to criminalise various sorts of malware practices. This presupposes democracy, and democracy requires defeating treaties such as the TPP and TTIP that give companies the power to suppress democracy“, this is the big one. The political branches all over Europe and the Commonwealth have sold us short and have not done anything to properly enforce the rights to privacy. In addition, Google and Apple remains in a state of non-clarity on what data these apps capture and what they convey. In that regard Facebook is equally guilty. Facebook goes further that it does not even proper police those who claim to give a free app, only to no longer work, but when you went to the install the data is as I see it already captured by the app provider, which gives wonder to where that data went.

In regards to suppressing democracy, which is perhaps partially overstated, there is an issue with the TPP that seems to empower large corporations and nullify the protection to smaller innovators and even governments as the TTP wants to enforce “where foreign firms can ‘sue’ states and obtain taxpayer compensation for ‘expected future profits’”, how long until we get an invoice for overinflated ego’s? Especially from those people in the entertainment industry claiming the loss of so many billions in an era when the bulk of the population can hardly pay their rent!

I regard Graham Burke of Village Roadshow to be one of the greater jokes this era has brought forth. Consider who he is supposed to ‘protect’, he goes on regarding “‘crazies’ whose hidden agenda is the ‘theft of movies’“, which is not that far-fetched a statement, because movies will be downloaded and not bought, it happens, yet not to the degree Graham Burke claims it is! So we get him soon enough to claim billions from losses due to the massive download of ‘the LEGO movie’ perhaps? Yet in the public forum on copyright infringement, we did not hear him utter a word on bandwidth, perhaps the response from Telstra’s Jane Van Beelen would likely have been a little too uncomfortable Mr Burke?

You see, in my view it is less about the democracy as Richard Stallman sees it. The legal protection seems to be massively delayed as bandwidth is income, and when piracy is truly stopped bandwidth will simmer down. If we accept the word of Village Roadshow with global revenue of 13 billion since 1997. Yet, I wrote about movie piracy in ‘The real issue here!‘ on June 17th 2014 (at https://lawlordtobe.com/2014/06/17/the-real-issue-here/), in the calculation, which I kept very conservative, Telstra could lose up to 320 million a month in revenue, due to diminished bandwidth, which gets us 4 billion a year. Consider that Village Roadshow is global, which means that Australian revenue is a mere fraction of that, how soon until they see that Village roadshow might only get 5-10 million a year more, against the 320 million a month loss for Telstra? So Mr. Burke is not regarded as a serious party as I see it (yet he is not an invalid party), Telstra would have too much to lose, not to mention the loss Optus and iiNet could face. However, if the TPP changes that with ‘expected future profits’, whilst there is absolutely no quality data to prove that the loss is nothing more than there ego’s talking.

There is the crunch that politicians are too afraid to touch!

Yet, in light of many factors, legal protection (including protection for Village Roadshow) is essential, yet the large corporations seem to hold the game to the need of their bottom dollar, which is the dollar, not democracy or decent rights. If it were decent rights than telecom companies would properly monitor abuse of digital rights, because the movie is for Village Roadshow to sell, or to stream for a fee via Netflix. I do not deny this at all, I just oppose the outlandish income some of them claim that they ‘lost’!

So on the dark side of the moon we see that (actually we do not see any of that) things are not right. I do not completely adhere to the idealist view that Richard Stallman validly has (we are all entitled to our views), but he touches on several parts that definitely need change and until we see a governmental push away from Microsoft solutions, we will see that the government will spend loads of money on never-ending updates to hardware and software. We all agree that such a change is not easily made, but in light of the cost of living, the fact that nearly no one makes that change is equally worrisome.

When we stare up to the sky we always see the same side of the moon, the dark side is wild, and is covered with impact craters, impacts we never see. It is a lot more reminiscent of the chaotic wild life of malware, a side that is constantly lacking the exposure it should have, mainly because it affects the bottom dollar.

 

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Thriving Team Tesco?

Another day, and another moment where we see the Guardian (amongst others) giving us more news on the corporation Tesco. I will be honest, I have a soft spot for Tesco, the moment issues became visible both the CEO and CLO went all out keeping everyone in the loop. It started exactly a week ago, someone miscounted 250 million to coin a phrase. People were removed and all kinds of actions were started. A few days ago in the Guardian (at http://www.theguardian.com/business/2014/sep/28/tesco-crisis-doesnt-add-up) we see additional information.

So what can be done?

First of all, we need to take one additional look at a few items. You see, as stated more than once, I am not an economist. Now I know that minus 250 million is not a small amount, yet, the article states “its profits for the first six months of the year would be some £250m lower than the £1.1bn previously indicated“, which means that they are still getting 750 million in profits, which is a lot. So why is Blackrock ‘suddenly’ pulling out like that? The shares will bounce back! That is at the heart, the fact that the shares took such a tumble, whilst making a decent profit. Let us also keep in mind that the investigation is still ongoing. I touch on one side in ‘Double Jeopardy!‘ on September 27th, less than a day before this Guardian article. In there I ask the question “I stated before, what if this was not about the event, but about the orchestration?” Is that what is going on? It is a sincere question, I do not know, yet for a company to have a lesser profit, there would be consequences, yet would it be to the extent we are seeing here? Seems like a massive overreaction in my view.

Now let us get back to the article.

The chairman has been the leader of this organisation that seems to have failed at every turn, was the assessment of David Herro, chief executive of US fund manager Harris Associates“, perhaps this is true, yet he is not there alone, why are the other members of the board not speaking out? This is not a boys club where you wash my back and I wash yours….real hard!

So, there seems to be a few issues, yet, this is at the top, so this means we are looking into several layers before we get to lower management. Either they have no clue, or they do not care. I am actually puzzled by the thought on what might be worse. What is a given is that Tesco is bleeding. Unlike those paperback investors, I like a puzzle and I want to solve it. How can this be turned around? First of all, to create places of peace, certain issues need to change, with the unemployment numbers, these people can either get on board, or leave the company. Greed will be stricken. Which means that this quote “The list includes disputing or delaying payment of invoices for more than 120 days; cutting a product’s price and then demanding compensation to maintain the profit margin; and demanding upfront payments in exchange for hitting sales targets that do not materialise” this can no longer be a method of operation. To get Tesco safe, the board will need to change methodology and remove anyone who is not on board; in addition, payment delays should be trimmed back to no more than 60 days. It is just absurd to get payments settled outside of the quarter to that extent. To truly become a contender, why not revamp Tesco Mobile? iiNet went from ‘seems to exist‘ to the number two in the Australian market by offering ACTUAL deals they left the rest behind them almost overnight, this means a mobile, not unlike the current offers, but with 1Gb data at £19.90 a month, Now we are starting to build a customer group! As I look at the different business groups, Dave Lewis might want to change a massive option, if they allow for the iiNet approach in the UK, Tesco Mobile could become more than a contender. Some might say that at this point it is not a good idea to make large changes. I disagree, this is the best time! As some of the rats are leaving the ship, why not upgrade the ship from cargo vessel with passengers, into a ferry with a large cargo hold. As you grow the passenger, all needing your cargo, you will offer a massive footprint with a loyal based cloud transporter. London is one of the largest mobile workforces on the planet. Use this as consumer strength!

There are a few more Australian approaches that could rock the foundation and make the future a stronger reality. It starts by changing the entire premise on how business is done. The Tesco bank seems to have overlooked options for both funeral insurance as well as the Wester Union approach, which many banks are overlooking, yet such a presence to such a service makes perfect sense in a shopping mall/supermarket. Consider that Western Union made over 5 billion in the last year, this gets us a net profit of around 14%. In the end good business is where you find it!

There are a few other options, but overall. There are several things Tesco can do, even if it was for the sheer fun of seeing Blackrock lose out on a good deal. If profits were lower than now this presently seems to be a likely fact. The reaction that some have now pushed for seems too much overkill, especially when you realise that they are measuring events and Tesco is in trouble, but not in the size and scope that Neil Woodford and Blackrock seem to imply it to be. Consider that Blackrock has over 4.5 trillion dollars in Assets under management. 250 million seems like a mere drop in the ocean. So, that there is no misunderstanding! The assets under managements represent 4,500 billion, the adjustment for Tesco is 0.25 billion,

Yet, instead of whinging about that part, why can we not do something to strengthen the Tesco position? It is all good and fine to be the sideline quarterback and comment on every aspect of the game, but what can be done to get the game going and to improve the game? One idea is to see if the Australian iiNet solution could work in the UK. It is only one of the options and that would lower mobile expense tensions by a roughly stated 57%, so the numbers are all on a level where the top 6 mobile and broadband providers will feel a new level of pain as they see their people run towards the upgraded Tesco Mobile provider.

It would be a start, but will it be enough?

No matter what we do and the amount of ‘more’ we create, there are fundamental issues that need to be addressed. How a company decided to run without a CFO for that long will be cause for questions, and perhaps even cause for investigations into criminal negligence. Consider that a company is set to structure, order and reporting pressures, how can a firm be without a CFO for six months? This is not at the heart of the matter, yet there is an overall level of concern in that mere part of the entire mess. In addition the quote “Although the investigation into Tesco has only just begun, analysts think the Albert Heijn scandal, which had woeful corporate governance and aggressive earnings management at its heart, provides an interesting history lesson, if nothing else.” Is that enough? There is an overly eagerness to appease shareholders and stakeholders far beyond the point of acceptability. If you consider opposing that (which might be valid), then consider how the numbers had been inflated by 29% just to keep the wealthy masses happy.

So, improving Tesco will require another level of changes. That part is seen in the Guardian article by Aditya Chakrabortty (at http://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2014/sep/29/tesco-accountants-auditors). It is quite a witty style of writing and well worth the read. One of the more interesting quotes was “He found a bunch of men well aware of the boredom of the audit and of the shortcuts they were forced to make“, so how does that work when we consider “Tesco paid PwC £10.4m in the last financial year – plus another £3.6m for other consultancy work“. Was that not enough? You see, this reminds me of some conversations I had in the 90’s. How short sighted Americans truly believed how business can grow, with the same staff, by 20% annually. Prices had to remain the same, to remain competitive. But as short sighted as they were (being sales people); they forgot that the time of a consultant is finite. It is measured in time (you know, that pesky 60 minutes in an hour scale), so as they are set at 90% billable, it means that by year three you’ll have to work an average of 57 hours a week (whilst getting paid 40 hours). It seems that there are levels of short cuts set into place to get results completed, whilst there is no proper investigation on the amount of work that needs to be covered. It is only one cog in the entire failing machine and if Tesco is to stand up from this, illustrating and changing the entire approach to how accountancy is done seems like a logical next step, especially considering that the PWC pass never spotted 29% of inflation somehow.

It is my opinion that the entire system has been duct taped for far too long. This now falls back onto the desk of the Chancellor of the Exchequer George Osborne.

You might ask why.

It is clear that Tesco is the most visible one, but I feel 99.5336% certain (roughly) that they are not the only one. As the British Cabinet minister responsible for all economic and financial matters, it stands to reason that if the economic recovery is to be preserved and maintained, we will need to make certain that not too many sheep fall of the paddock. This means taking a look into these regulations and more important, if (according to the article) 90% of all audits is done by the big four, seeing 25% fall of the reservation should be ample reason to forego sleep for the foreseeable future (sorry, Mr Osborne, that is why they pay you the extra £26.90 a week!).

It is clear that actions need to be taken, but it is also pretty curious how there is a massive amount of bashing on Tesco, whilst PWC is not getting the spotlight as much, can anyone explain that? Let’s be clear here, it is very possible that this is all due whilst PWC has not been involved at all, so this is not about their optional guilt, it is however valid to ask how some involved thought of pulling this off, it seems that a whistle-blower started all this, yet did no one else notice, did PWC (Price Waterhouse Coopers) have ZERO visibility that something was going on? And, let me be clear, it is very possible that nothing was visible at their last audit, which means that these systems had to be orchestrated and specifically edited to not raise flags, mainly because 250,000,000 is just too much, it would require over 5 billion rounding issues for this to be validly invisible, I reckon we can ignore the likelihood of the latter scenario.

Can Tesco become a team again? Yes, but it requires a massive sanitation of the board of directors as well as the higher managers. One final thought here, they were without a CFO for 6 months, was number two in that hierarchy (whomever reported to the CFO) not on the list, the longer I consider the facts and the numbers, the more I feel that this has been going on for some time to inflate something to this amount, did previous audits not pick anything up?

Can Tesco be a team again? Yes, but compartmentalisation needs to be removed, there needs to be overlap of high directors as well as a fundamental change in communications.

Can Tesco thrive again? I would think so if the previous two points are dealt with and adding the iiNet solution to Tesco might be needed sooner rather than later.

By the way, Mr Lewis, if you read this, consider that this mess came about whilst Philip Clarke made £1,171,000 a year, I reckon that my good insights and ideas are worth a mere 20%, especially if my Tesco mobile solution helps you gain more momentum in the mobile field.

 

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Changing topics?

It is Tuesday evening, I had been preparing some of my assignments when the two hour bell rang, it was time for a break. I am still ahead of what is needed, which means I can relax (only a little). For 4 weeks I have been doing my daily Uni work, so there is a moment to breath. This is good for now, so what to look at?

Well, I could take you down the road of a copyright driven Australia, yet, when we look at the facts, especially as presented by Brendan Molloy, councillor of Pirate Bay Australia, then a moment of depression hits me. We all speak in truths (or so I hope) and as such, so does he. I do not completely agree with his approach, but he makes a decent case. There are a few tweets he made as @piecritic that have reverberated in my own writings in the past.

  1. Brandis is known to have not met with any consumer representatives and stakeholders as part of writing this draft. #copyrightau“, which seem to give slightly more weight to the issues I posted on my blog on June 17th 2014 called ‘The real issue here!‘, when I wrote “This is at the centre of it all. From my point of view Mr Burke knows it, Mr Brandis knows it and Google, who has every profit with large broadband usage, knows it too. I think it is time for this sanctimonious posturing to stop” it was to state the issue that in the end this is NOT about copyright, this is about bandwidth and as such the Australian economy cannot survive another multi-BILLION dollar blow to it at present. I think that Attorney General Brandis DEFENITELY got spoken to (not speaking with) by certain stakeholders (off the record of course), yet these people do not want ANY visibility in the limelight at present.
  2. @piratepartyau made an FOI request for that data. They refused to release it. https://www.righttoknow.org.au/request/copyright_legislation_working_gr#incoming-2467 #copyrightau”, which seemed to link to “A question about data costs being absurdly high. Love it. #copyrightau“, this is an interesting side. In my previous blog and other events I focussed on the bandwidth, which is what an ISP should be able to monitor and as such they do not, or better, only monitor for billing purposes. This all takes another turn when we consider the tweet by Ed Husic, Federal MP for Chifley, Shadow ParlSec to @bowenchris. His Tweet is “Abbott Govt should tackle copyright, pricing, access simultaneously and not just @copyrightau 1st“.

Well first, to get it all straight, I am a Liberal, so basically in the Abbott, Hockey corner!

Yet, these people make a decent case. You see, I am not in favour of copyright infringement, so if we can stop illegal downloads then this is just fine with me (additional reasons to follow soon). The issue here is not just about copyright; it is in part the ludicrous idea of continuing the TPP. This is at the centre of strangling honest commerce in the near future. I am all for a better legal system that protects the owners of copyrighted articles that Burke represents, yet ‘the rants’ as Brendan mentioned gives way that he is angry because the ACTUAL profiteers are too strong and too powerful (read the ISP and large telecom companies). This is why we see these ‘packaged’ solutions by Optus lately, amongst others. They are trying to convert people to a package as they know that securing revenue now is becoming increasingly important to THEIR survival, this is not seen anywhere in clarity.

So prices are being partially dealt with and access is being transferred to the US via the TPP. If you consider that to be not true, then wonder why Microsoft is setting up 300,000 servers. Just for gaming? Please get a grip and be fast about it!

Consider the following, this was stated by developer Jonathan Blow, but he is not the only stating issues in this direction. “I can spin up 10,000 virtual servers per host. They would just all suck. Saying 300k when they are virtual is a lie“, this is a developer, my issue, since even BEFORE day one has been on the ridiculousness of certain claims. This has all to do with streaming media and entertainment. Microsoft introduced it, when the backlash came they changed tune and dance, so why is this continued? Because the change to a broadband Foxtel approach will FORCE people in the bandwidth and there is no more downloads (which I do not oppose), but there is also no more privacy, with which I have an issue. When you force consoles online for all the wrong reasons, then we can safely state that this is about monitoring”. As America was the land of the free, it is now quickly becoming the nation of the monitors, which is what a debt of trillions will get you. As stated before, i cannot understand the TPP for the life of me, it strangles digital freedom (actual freedom, not freedom to download illegally), it will strangle generic medication (not part of this discussion) and it will strangle local commerce (very much the issue at present).

Patrick Bach, producer behind Battlefield 4 has an additional view “I’m not sure how the cloud will work for real-time stuff, but I can see how it could work for non-real-time stuff where you need a lot of calculations”, monitoring is not real-time, but requires massive power, here we see a side of that what is monitored and how it requires many servers. By the way, consider that this, when (or if) this is up and running, that the monitoring power of Microsoft will exceed that of the NSA by a massive margin. It seems a little extreme for streaming TV shows and online players, doesn’t it?

Additional evidence comes from the Australian (at http://www.theaustralian.com.au/business/opinion/copyright-law-is-failing-to-keep-up-with-internet/story-e6frg9if-1227050705973, this link requires you to subscribe) “As a former chief financial officer, I follow the money: these schemes haven’t worked, because the content owners aren’t prepared to invest in their administration. If they were genuinely effective, surely the movie and television studios would be happy to throw resources at such schemes“.

Again, as a technologist this could definitely be done, yet this is not in the ISP interest at all, his fortune is all about bandwidth, reducing it costs him money.

This is why I thought that the entire action was a waste of time from before the very beginning. Until greed (read revenue) from the Telco’s is set straight, whatever deal comes, will come at the price of ALL valid users and for the larger extent at the cost of their freedom (read privacy).

Yet, in all the tweets, Brendan Molloy does repeat on many occasions the issue that is at the centre of it all “fix your business models“. This is at the centre, yet in all scenario’s several players lose out on revenue (and loads of it), in addition Australia is not even at the heart of the issue that is playing behind the screens. For people like Google and Netflix (where a few groups have a valued investment of over 10 billion), it is not Australia, but the UK where the big price is. Australia with its 10 million households is just a small individual away from the Commonwealth pack. Yet this does not just hit the bandwidth and download models.

In all this, I have one other link. This one http://www.gizmodo.com.au/2014/09/malcolm-turnbulls-anti-piracy-forum-live-blog-follow-the-news-as-it-happens/ shows us the entire copyright AU evening and when you read it, please try to consider the following:

  1. The words ‘Revenue’ and ‘Bandwidth’ did not get mentioned ONCE. You might think that with illegal downloads and copyright infringements that issue would come up at least once, but both iiNet and Telstra were extremely cautious to sail away from getting near it. In my view that forum did exactly what it needed to do, keep interest away from the TPP, bandwidth and where the actual money would be draining from.

All this is as I expected it to be and if you read my previous blogs then you would have read that pointlessness is next to greediness. Not grammatically correct, but highly accurate. Whether we see changes remains to be seen, but the moment the TPP comes into effect the changes will be massive and it is likely that this changes get announced whilst the ink of the autographs on the TPP agreement is still drying.

So, why is this about changing topics?

Well, the discussion seems to be about piracy, copyright and copyright infringement, but the topic that hinders all events (like revenue and more important ‘blood money’) is kept out of the discussion for now.

I have already discussed revenue in more than one place, so feel free to read the other blog article (The real issue here!, mentioned at the beginning) to catch up on it. What I have not talked about is the issue of ‘Blood-money’. It is not my phrase, but I have adopted it as it applies (to some extent). You see, this is not the price of the game, not the cost of doing business. It is the price of being there and staying alive. It seems pure and simple, but it is not. You see, the topic of micro transactions is a little more complex and as such it is important to distinguish between them.

  1. The good guys and girls!

Highest on my list is Blacklight: Retribution. It is released for the PS4, yet there is also a PC edition. The game is large and is FREE! So how do they make money? Well they rely on micro transactions. When buying stuff you have two options, you start low, but as you get through games and as your score is there, you get money, this money allows for low to medium styled weapons. They are not cheap so it will take a little time to acquire the cash. Yet, it is free and you have time, so this is all good. However, if you want that one piece, that ultimate weapon, the slamalamadingdong of all shotguns that will rip through flesh, bone and Kevlar as you squeeze of the right trigger of your controller, then you must purchase Z-coins. There is an off-set here. Partially I think that without Z-coins you will be in a long trial to get decent gear to oppose, yet consider that this is all multiplayer and for those who are not really into this, it means no $99 and this is good, you can invest $10 to get decent gear. I think the approach is pretty good in this economy. This approach is better than try before you buy and is a decent business model. There are others that do this too and some have too steep a curve of costs, but Blacklight seemed reasonable.

For the iPad there is ‘Elemental Kingdoms’. A game, which is free to play and as you play and win, you get coin, which allows you to buy packs with random cards. It is easy to play, the game looks extremely well and the artwork is amazing, the cards unlike with actual cards evolve as you invest in the card, making it more powerful. If you purchase gems with your own cash you can buy packs with more rare cards and better rare cards, which makes for better odds. New players will get double the amount of gems with their first purchase. a good approach.

So, this is the good model, some like it, some do not, but nothing is for free and this way you get the pleasure to try and the option to grow without spending a cent. Those eager to step forward quicker can place $10-$25 and get a head start.

  1. The demons

Here we have the bad side. Whether we go after the Forza games, Gran Turismo or the classic which should now be regarded as an utter joke on the iPad! Prices range from roughly $7.5 for 500,000 in game credits to $75 for 7 million credits. Now consider that one car could cost you 20 million credits, which would be one of the extreme top cars, but that means one additional car at around twice the price for the whole game. How is this even considered sane? This pales by comparison when we see a great classic like Dungeon Keeper seems to push people to invest vast amounts of money into gems so that the player can get anywhere. This is free-to-play?

These are two extremes, yet how does this relate to the initial issue?

This is where the future takes us. The market on many levels is pushing for micro transactions on all fields. Whether it is an app or just a service, it is not just a worry, the future as we see it comes again from the Apple Market. This is not just the versions of the iPhone6 (plus or not), but the other options like the Apple Watch, where we see an interaction between watch and phone. This sounds like a decent gimmick, yet did you consider the exploitation of the consumer through services via micro transactions as well as the events we get as Apple collects all this data? It is not just Apple, where one goes Google will follow and the entire debate we saw on copyright now gets a whole new meaning as people on a global level sign up for ‘services’. This is where packaging of services will truly get a consequence. What if you have Foxtel?

Now we revisit the following statements:

Ed Husic: “Abbott Govt should tackle copyright, pricing, access simultaneously and not just @copyrightau 1st

Brendan Molloy: “fix your business models

Jonathan BlowSaying 300,000 servers when they are virtual, is a lie

I think that the business models have been adjusted, yet I think the adjustment is moving in a very dangerous direction. The Ed Husic nail is getting hit by a massive hammer; there is, at the core of these changes a need to immediately revisit pricing and taxation sides. You see, the ‘micro-transactions’ might seem small, but it reflects on the dangers we face how the frog will not jump out of the pot when the water is slowly brought to a boil, when we react to micro transactions, we will react too late. In this economy we need to make sure the consumer is protected as well as the national coffers, because when Apple and Google start their $0.99 a month service per service we will be hoisting millions a month outside of Australian tax shores, whilst at the same time collecting all that data to be resold and analysed at the other end giving them additional billions in revenue. The Privacy act will not guard us in any way for this new consumer wave. This all brings me to the question, how much do Telstra, Optus and iiNet know at present? Does the intelligence community realise this change of data and how can they keep track of some of the more shady events. Last but not least, when ‘3rd party’ people start pushing out data apps, how can this tsunami of data even be sifted through?

The final part will get us to the conclusion (at (at http://thenextweb.com/apple/2014/09/01/this-could-be-the-apple-icloud-flaw-that-led-to-celebrity-photos-being-leaked/) we see that last week someone took a look at certain events. and it gives us this quote “The vulnerability allegedly discovered in the Find My iPhone service appears to have let attackers use this method to guess passwords repeatedly without any sort of lockout or alert to the target. Once the password has been eventually matched, the attacker can then use it to access other iCloud functions freely“. As stated, this is not a fact at present, but it does give serious voice to the hacked phones.

Things you might think that have no bearing, but as we consider the case of the 101 naked celebrities (like Disney’s Dalmatians for adults), what else can outsiders get access to when people start using these new gadgets? If we consider that the financially well off start using these innovations first, how long until this clear target becomes a target of interest to the cyber-criminal?

So many issues linked to the changing topic. My question, what topic SHOULD have been debated? This is not about copyright perse, but that links to all of this, it is about a missing league of securities that endangers the lives of many Australians and none Australians alike. It is a change to facilitate for profit and data to be handed to big business at the expense of our personal, social and economic safety. Sides many seem to ignore.

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