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Category: Neuland

Ad revenue, and the German technophobia

Germany is not actually technophobic. As a country, we are looking back to a long tradition of embracing technology and innovation. A lot of the German technophobia you are seeing today has been created by German newspapers, notably the Springerpresse.

And they have their reasons. Reported by the Financial Times:

[Google and Facebook] hold on online spending has created a digital duopoly that is upending the advertising business. In 2015 they accounted for 75 per cent of all new online ad spending, according to Mary Meeker of Kleiner Perkins Caufield & Byers, the US venture capital fund. Several analysts estimate that excluding Google and Facebook, the digital ad industry actually shrank in the first half of 2016.

The root cause for German Internet policy stances, current law and the general hysteria versus all things Google, Facebook/WhatsApp, Apple, Ebay and Microsoft in the end come down to that single observation above. From that root comes the defensive position of German Springerpresse, and from their influence on German politics comes the current policy.

Understanding that is the key to successful influence on German politics.

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Steam Summer Sale


This magical time in summer, when you simply sit, watching the accumulated Gigabytes idly float by and think of the poor people of #neuland.

13 GB done, fifty more to go. And Steam is overloaded, not giving out much more than 200 MBit/s.

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25 years “Individual Network e.V.”

Heiko Schlichting reminds us that 25 years ago, on the 20./21. of June 1992, the Individual Network e.V. was created (Text in German).

Individual Network e.V. was a NGO of NGOs, a construct where local citizen network NGOs could be members. Individual Network would then make contracts with the German Science Network DFN and other providers and buy traffic rights in bulk, in order to allow its members to use this traffic for non-commercial, private use.

In order to allow local NGOs to connect to the German Science Network DFN locally using the local university lines, Individual Network had to have some connection to DFN in order to be a member and customer. In the end it was decided that Individual Network would finance two X.25 lines into DFN at 50% each, with the local NGO taking the endpoint financing the other half.

That is how the NGO I represented, Toppoint Mailbox e.V., ended up with a 9600 bps X.25 line on 1.10.1992. This ended the era of long-distance dialup at Toppoint Kiel (well, not quite) and introduced a permanent link to the Internet.

That was well before the first web servers, so SMTP, NNTP and FTP were the order to the day. People connected to Toppoint using dial-up modems, ISDN dial-ups or semi-permanent (pre-conncted) ISDN dialups. Speeds were up to 128 kbps, using channel bundling.

I had a PI /24 those days, for home use, costing me 50 DM, one time.

Also, people reminded me of …!mcshh!tpki!kriski!kris. Yes, we did not use DNS back then, but had to name all hosts in the path of a mail. And hostnames are globally unique (yep, that scales even less than IP V4).

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How Google took over the classroom

Using electronic devices in the classroom seems to be a topic older than time, and the implementation often involved a lot of tedium. The problems and possible solutions are well understood in Germany (report about LTSP among other things), but the (purposefully) fragmented market for education in Germany is getting in the way here.

Biggest problem usually is keeping the machines clean and orderly, and keeping the data available across device loss. Children and teachers seem to be installing a lot of questionable software and extensions, and getting rid of these by setting up the machine seems to be the only way to be sure. So any school installation usually focuses on automatic fast imaging of the machines, and on server-side data storage for everything to make sure nothing is lost when a machine is lost or re-imaged.

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Google: “Federated learning”, Apple: “Differential privacy”

Google is using a strategy called “Federated Learning” to keep privacy sensitive data being used for AI purposes private. They basically download a preliminary model to the phone, modify the data with the observed behavior on the phone and upload the diffs back to Google Cloud, where they merge it to the existing data.

Apple uses “Differential Privacy“, where they add noise to the data so that observed privacy sensitive data observed in the cloud for one user may or may not be actually true, but individual noise contributions even out statistically over the whole data set.

Meanwhile, #neuland talks about Datenkraken and does… nothing?

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Kyle reviews Prey

Kyle Kingsburg is usually known for his work in distributed systems verification.

But he is also a Gamer, and he reviews Prey (The review is 100% Spoiler, if you care about these things) and in particular the story, the storytelling mechanisms used and their relationship and adequateness for the themes the game touches.

I know nothing about Prey, and am also only mildly interested. But the style of discussion and the view on story and storytelling was reminiscent of literature or theater criticism and review, the kind you get when you listen to Deutschlandradio or NDR Kultur over breakfast.

In a way, #neuland again, because this is precisely not how “high culture” in Germany deals with modern media – but it should.

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WSJ on Government Backdoors, intentional and unintentional

The episode underscores the folly of the U.S. law enforcement demand that tech companies install backdoors into their devices and services.

the WSJ comments. This time the leak is an unintentional backdoor the NSA used to get onto devices. The NSA used the Vulnerabilities Equities Process to determine that ETERNALBLUE is burnt and informed Microsoft, which then promptly generated an urgent critical patch, which did not make it out to systems in the field fast enough.

There is little difference according to the WSJ between flaws being used as government backdoors, and intentional government backdoors, which may be detected and abused, or leaked. So this whole Wannacry(pt) thing is a very good example of what will happen with Government mandated backdoors in systems.

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Rittal sends USB sticks that act as keyboards – as advertisement

Holger Köpke got a USB stick (article in German) that supposedly is from data center equipment maker Rittal, unsolicited, in the mail. Of course he did not plug it into a device, it could be anything.

He then (from his first comment in the same article) set up a test VM on a scratch device, inserted the USB stick there and the stick identified not as USB memory, but as a USB HID, a keyboard. Seemed that he was right not to trust it. Sends a mail to Rittal explaining them why he thinks this is dangerous, and asks if this is indeed legit.

Gets a response (another article in German), a letter as a PDF sent by email.

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Handling Wannacrypt – a few words about technical debt

So Microsoft had a bug in their systems. Many of their sytems. For many years. That happens. People write code. These people write bugs

Microsoft over the years has become decently good with fixing bugs and rolling out upgrades, quickly. That’s apparently important, because we all are not good enough at not writing bugs. So if we cannot prevent them, we need to be able to fix them and then bring these fixes to the people. All of them.

The NSA found a bug. They called it ETERNALBLUE and they have been using it for many years to compromise systems.

In order to be able to continue doing that they kept the bug secret. That did not work. The bug is now MS17-010 or a whole list of CVE-entries.

The NSA told MS about the bug when they learned that it had leaked, but not before. Microsoft patched the bug in March 2017, even for systems as old as Windows XP (which lost all support in 2014), but many people did not install the patch.

The result is “the largest cyberattack in the world”.

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