An online Magna Carta is needed to protect the World Wide Web’s independence, its inventor says


180520863 An online Magna Carta is needed to protect the World Wide Webs independence, its inventor says

The inventor of the World Wide Web, Sir Tim Berners-Lee, believes an online ‘Magna Carta’ is needed to protect the independence of the Web and the rights of its users, The Guardian reports.

On the 25th anniversary of his first draft of the first proposal for what would become the World Wide Web, Berners-Lee warns that the neutrality of the medium is under threat from governments and corporations. He tells The Guardian:  ”Unless we have an open, neutral Internet we can rely on without worrying about what’s happening at the back door, we can’t have open government, good democracy, good healthcare, connected communities and diversity of culture. It’s not naive to think we can have that, but it is naive to think we can just sit back and get it.”

Berners-Lee has been a critic of the spying tactics that American and British governments have been accused of, in the wake of revelations by whistleblower Edward Snowden.

His plan for an online Magna Carta would cover principles of privacy, free speech and responsible anonymity, and is being taken up as part of a project called “The Web We Want”, which campaigns for digital rights.

➤ An online Magna Carta: Berners-Lee calls for bill of rights for web [The Guardian]

Image via Danny Lawson/AFP/Getty Images

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‘Flappy Bird’ Creator: I Might Bring It Back

by Samantha Murphy Kelly


For those still mourning the loss of the highly addictive Flappy Bird mobile game that was pulled from app stores just last month, creator Dong Nguyen said he’s “considering” bringing it back.

In an in-depth interview with Rolling Stone, Nguyen said there is a chance he could release it once again: “I’m considering it.”

The publication met with the man who mysteriously removed the app, despite it bringing in a reported $55,000 in ad revenue each day. Although the app launched in May 2013, it became an overnight sensation in February as it climbed to the top of Apple’s App Store and Google Play for Android.

But the stresses of success had gotten to its creator. There were rumors he might be sued by Nintendo. He received death threats, couldn’t eat and even contemplated suicide. This led him to send a series of tweets on Feb. 8 warning that he was going to remove the app in just 22 hours. Fans pleaded with him to keep it available, but by the next day, the app was no longer in either store.

In response to a question about how he felt after removing the app, Nguyen responded: 


“Relief. I can’t go back to my life before, but I’m good now.”

Although Nguyen said he isn’t working on a new version of the game and is turning down offers to sell it, he would bring back the original release but with a specific “warning” to “please take a break.”

Fans of Flappy Bird who downloaded the app before it was pulled are still generating tens of thousands of dollars for him, according to the report. He quit his job and is developing new games, such as a flying game called Kitty Jetpack and a “action chess game” called Checkonaut due out this month.

Some believe Flappy Bird was so popular because it is so frustrating to play. The concept of the game is to keep a bird afloat by tapping it through a series of obstacles. It’s designed to be simple but, in practice, the task is extremely difficult.

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House passes bill that would allow cell phone unlocking

Legislation would repeal a Library of Congress decision not to issue a DMCA exemption against phone unlocking but prohibit bulk device unlocking.


The US House of Representatives approved a bill Tuesday that would allow cell phone customers to unlock their devices for use on competitors’ networks.

Passed by a 295-114 vote, the Unlocking Consumer Choice and Wireless Competition Act would repeal a 2012 decision by the Library of Congress that made cell phone unlocking a violation of the 1998 Digital Millennium Copyright Act. The DMCA, which prohibits Americans from “circumventing” technologies that protect copyrighted works, gives the Library of Congress the authority to grant exemptions.

Unlocking cell phones allows handsets to be used on a wireless network other than that of the originating carrier. It’s a process that wireless carriers are usually willing to accommodate once the customer’s wireless contract has been fulfilled. But the process became illegal last year when the Library of Congress opted not to renew a DMCA exemption, which it granted in 2006 and 2010. The change caused a stir in the wireless community and lead to an online petition that garnered some 114,322 signatures before winning the president’s support last March.

While emphasizing that the bill would legalize individual unlocking, the bill included a prohibition against bulk unlocking of device for the purpose of resale, according to a summary of the bill.

“This legislation allows any individual who wishes to unlock their cell phone for personal use to seek help from others without violating anti-circumvention provisions and clarifies that this bill does not permit the unlocking of cell phones for the purpose of bulk resale,” the summary states.

The inclusion of a clause in the bill prohibiting bulk unlocking drew criticism from consumer watchdogs. Consumer advocacy group Public Knowledge withdrew its support, saying that “language recently added to the bill could be interpreted to make future unlocking efforts more difficult.”

The Electronic Frontier Foundation alsodropped its support of the bill, saying that that the new legislation “sends two dangerous signals: (1) that Congress is OK with using copyright as an excuse to inhibit certain business models, even if the business isn’t actually infringing anyone’s copyright; and (2) that Congress still doesn’t understand the collateral damage Section 1201 [of the DMCA] is causing. For example, bulk unlocking not only benefits consumers, it’s good for the environment — unlocking allows re-use, and that means less electronic waste.”

Senate Judiciary Chairman Patrick Leahy has already introduced his own unlocking bill, although his support for the bulk unlocking prohibition is uncertain.

The five major US wireless carriers reached a deal late last year with the Federal Communications Commission to unlock customers’ handsets, but only after the terns of their contract had been fulfilled. The deal also states that carriers can charge non-customers a fee for unlocking a phone.

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Amazon Acquires Video Gaming Studio Double Helix Games

by  (@sarahintampa),  (@loyalelectron)

Amazon has acquired a gaming studio called Double Helix Games, TechCrunch has learned, and Amazon now confirms. The deal was for both talent and IP, we understand. Financial terms have not been disclosed.

The Irvine, California-based company, founded in 2007 through the merger of two well-known game development shops, The Collective, Inc. and Shiny Entertainment, today employs 75 people who will now become Amazon employees and will continue to operate out of their Orange County home.

News of the deal leaked due to an invitation to joint recruiting event from Amazon and Double Helix Games taking place in L.A. on February 13th. The acquisition announcement was planned to take place at that time, most likely.

Amazon has provided TechCrunch with the following statement regarding the deal:

“Amazon has acquired Double Helix as part of our ongoing commitment to build innovative games for customers.”

The Double Helix deal may fuel to the recent rumors that Amazon is preparing to release its own gaming console in the coming months. Last week, the video game industry blog reported that Amazon is planning to launch an Android-powered “dedicated games and entertainment device this year priced below $300… [that] will compete directly with Sony, Microsoft and Nintendo.” Buzz about an Amazon console has been around for a while: This past summer, the rumor was that the company was planning to debut a Qualcomm-based console system. Amazon declined to comment on the console speculation when reached today.

Of course, Amazon Game Studios also has a presence in Irvine, following the launch of its social game development arm back in 2012. Amazon’s efforts on the gaming front have been fairly quiet since then. The company has released a now-shuttered game called “Living Classics,” which retired last October. The company also has a handful of other titles now, but the Double Helix acquisition will bring more high-profile talent and IP to Amazon.

Double Helix has a history of creating popular games for nearly 20 years, when you consider the work Shiny and The Collective had done before the merger. Shiny, for example, was the creator of classic like “Earthworm Jim,”
“Sacrifice, MDK” and “Enter the Matrix,” while The Collective had previously put out titles like “Indiana Jones and the Emperor’s Tomb,” “Star Wars Episode III: Revenge of the Sith,” and “Buffy the Vampire Slayer.”

As Double Helix, the firm has a decent track record as well. Its most popular game today is “Killer Instinct,” but throughout the years, it has created a number of PC and console gamesincluding “G.I. Joe: The Rise of Cobra,” “Green Latern: Rise of the Manhunters,” “Silent Hill: Homecoming,” and “Front Mission Evolved,” among others. As you can tell by the titles, it specializes in large-scale action games based on blockbuster franchises.

A forthcoming title, “Strider,” is scheduled to launch this month on PS3, but others including “Dirty Harry” and “Harker” are no longer expected to follow.

Amazon says that Double Helix’s current lineup of games and other future developments will be supported, following the acquisition.

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US Department of Transportation will require car-to-car communications systems to prevent crashes

By Russell Brandom

Lexus Integrated Safety

The connected car got a major push from the federal government today, as the Department of Transportation announced plans for a regulatory proposal that would require vehicle-to-vehicle communication devices in a future year. The proposal comes after a yearlong pilot program by the National Highway Traffic Safety Administration, which will be releasing a report on its findings in the coming weeks. It’s just a first step towards the new communication system, but it’s a big one. “By helping drivers avoid crashes, this technology will play a key role in improving the way people get where they need to go,” US Transportation Secretary Anthony Foxx told reporters.

Automakers have increasingly embraced the “connected car” model in recent years, which would use high-speed, low-latency connections to enable a new kind of network between cars. The resulting network would allow for more sophisticated anti-collision and convoy systems, preventing crashes and easing traffic congestion. Rather than relying on brake lights to see when the car ahead of you is stopping, a car-to-car system could pull miles-per-hour directly from another driver’s onboard computer, allowing for a smooth and automatic deceleration rather than a traffic-stopping screech. To enable that technology, automakers need a new set of standards, something that’s remarkably rare in the insular car industry. Today’s announcement suggests the federal government may end up leading the way.

EU said to be developing system for police to remotely disable any car

By Chris Ziegler

SF taxi Toyota Prius hybrid street car cab stock 1024

The Telegraph reports that European Union police officials are quietly meeting to develop a system that would allow law enforcement to kill any car’s engine from a central control facility. The fundamental technology already exists and is deployed with some auto manufacturers — GM, for example, offers “Stolen Vehicle Slowdown” as a service on 2009 and newer OnStar-equipped vehicles — but the goal of the EU effort appears to be a standardized, mandated system that would be controlled directly by police, not by car companies. If pushed through, The Telegraph suggests that it would be required by the end of the decade.



Reaction to the news has been strongly negative, with one member of British parliament saying that “the price we pay for surrendering our democratic sovereignty is that we are governed by an unaccountable secretive clique.” Another questions the liability to governments should the kill switch be triggered accidentally while a car is traveling at highway speeds, potentially causing a crash. Besides the concerns about an invasion of privacy and freedom for law-abiding citizens, it’s easy to imagine the potential for catastrophic consequences if the “switch” fell in the wrong hands.

Documents obtained by The Telegraph claim that the technology behind the remote-stop feature has yet to be developed — but considering that automakers have already developed it on their own, it seems unlikely that police would face engineering roadblocks if it ends up being mandated.


World’s first carbon-fibre 3D printer announced


The Mark One 3D carbon-fibre printer has been announced at the SolidWorks World conference in San Diego.

(Credit: MarkForged)

The 3D printing industry is just about to boom, thanks to the expiration of one of the key patents on selective laser sintering on 28 January. So, while we’re expecting some pretty exciting announcements in the near future, this one certainly gets the ball rolling with a bang.

Called the Mark One, it’s the creation of a new company called MarkForged. This doesn’t mean it doesn’t live up to standard, though: MarkForged is owned by Gregory Mark, who co-owned a company called Aeromotions that builds computer-controllable aerodynamic carbon fibre wings for racing cars. Mark decided to get into 3D printing when he was looking for a better manufacturing technique than CNC machining, which is costly and time consuming.

The answer was 3D printing; and, since there were no 3D printers that could print in carbon fibre, Mark decided to assemble a team to invent his own.

Mark One is the result. Debuting at SolidWorks World 2014 with a working prototype, it has a special extruder, patent pending, for printing in carbon fibre strands, which, Mark says, are five times stronger and 20 times stiffer than the ABS plastic used in most 3D printing.

(Credit: MarkForged)

“The incredible strength of carbon fiber comes from the long, continuous strands that carry load down the entire part. This is why space shuttles, rockets and Formula 1 cars are constructed from continuous strand carbon,” the Mark One website says. “And it’s how we print. Don’t settle for plastic with a dash of chopped carbon fill. Longer is stronger.”

The car wings printed by the machine have been designed with a nylon outer shell and inner honeycomb structure, reinforced by a carbon fibre core. But the company expects that its customers will be thinking far outside the box of racing car parts, with potential applications in prosthetics, tools and fixtures.

And it can print in multiple materials: as well as carbon fibre, it can print in PLA, nylon and fibreglass. A kinetic print bed clicks into the same place every time, too, so that you don’t have to fuss with adjusting it just so.

The Mark One will retail for US$5000 and is available now for preorder on the MarkForged website. You can see the printer’s full specs here.

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Department Of Justice Will Allow Big Tech Companies To Disclose Detailed Numbers Of Surveillance Requests

by  (@joshconstine)

Apple today released more details on the requests it receives from government surveillance agencies after the Department Of Justice releaxed limits on disclosures. Apple, Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, and LinkedIn today were given the right to disclose more details on the data requests and orders they receive from the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court after suing the government for months to declassify these numbers.

The Attorney General Eric Holder and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper released a statement today, first reported by the Wall Street Journal, that says “Through these new reporting methods, communications providers will be permitted to disclose more information than ever before to their customers. The office of the Director of National Intelligence…has determined that the public interest in disclosing this information now outweighs the national security concerns that required its classification.”

Google, Facebook, Microsoft, Yahoo, and LinkedIn all agreed to drop their lawsuits in exchange for the declassification.

Apple has published a new letter describing its relationship with the government surveillance agencies and releasing narrower ranges of numbers of National Security Orders for data that it’s received. As seen below, Apple received between zero and 249 National Security Orders on a number of accounts in that rage. Apple received 927 total law enforcement account requests about 2330 accounts, disclosed data on 747 accounts, objected 102 times, disclosed no data on 254 accounts, disclosed non-content dta on 601 accounts, disclosed some content on 71 accounts, and the percentage of account requests where some data was disclosed was 81%.

Screen Shot 2014-01-27 at 1.58.27 PM

Note how these numbers are more detailed than those Apple released on November 5th, 2013:


The ability to disclose specific numbers could boost confidence amongst tech companies’ users that the government’s data requests are specific and targeted, not a dragnet pulling in everyone.

As I wrote in June, ambiguity in surveillance is what causes fear. That fear can be seen as a double-edged sword. While ambiguity could prevent true threats to national security from understanding our surveillance methods, it also worries innocent users that they’re being needlessly spied on. By striking a better balance in terms of specificity, the tech companies hope to reassure their users while still letting the NSA do its job of trying to protect the United States.

Unfortunately, in the monthd since the big tech companies began asking for more disclosure freedom, we’ve seen Edward Snowden’s leaks indicate that the NSA doesn’t necessarily have to go through official channels to get user data. That means people might not care about how many times the government knocked on the front door or was let in when it can always go through the back door.

Here’s the  full text of the statement from the Department Of Justice.

Department of Justice
Office of Public Affairs
Monday, January 27, 2014
Joint Statement by Attorney General Eric Holder and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper on New Reporting Methods for National Security Orders

Attorney General Eric Holder and Director of National Intelligence James Clapper released the following joint statement Monday:
“As indicated in the Justice Department’s filing with the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, the administration is acting to allow more detailed disclosures about the number of national security orders and requests issued to communications providers, and the number of customer accounts targeted under those orders and requests including the underlying legal authorities. Through these new reporting methods, communications providers will be permitted to disclose more information than ever before to their customers.
“This action was directed by the President earlier this month in his speech on intelligence reforms. While this aggregate data was properly classified until today, the office of the Director of National Intelligence, in consultation with other departments and agencies, has determined that the public interest in disclosing this information now outweighs the national security concerns that required its classification.
“Permitting disclosure of this aggregate data resolves an important area of concern to communications providers and the public.  In the weeks ahead, additional steps must be taken in order to fully implement the reforms directed by the President.
“The declassification reflects the Executive Branch’s continuing commitment to making information about the Government’s intelligence activities publicly available where appropriate and is consistent with ensuring the protection of the national security of the United States.”

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Wikipedia adding celebrity voices to wiki pages to preserve them for future generations



new project called WikiVIP was announced by Wikipedia today that seeks to add the voice of celebrities and other notable people to the online encyclopedia.

The project is the brainchild of Wikipedia editors Andy Mabbett and Andrew Gray, who thought that the encyclopedia could do with more sound files and began approaching celebrities to request short audio clips of their voices.

WikiVIP, which stands for “Wikipedia Voice Intro Project” sets out to make sure there is a public and freely reusable record of what notable people sound like for “current and future generations.”

The project has kicked off with Stephen Fry adding a sample of his speaking voice to the page about him. The hope is, that this will spread awareness of the project and cause other notable people such as scientists and artists that have Wikipedia pages about them to record their own samples.

For the first time, the BBC is also working with Wikipedia to provide short voice clips from some of its programming for preservation as well. These range fromSir Tim Berners-Lee to Aung San Suu Kyi.

Those who have Wikipedia pages about them are encouraged to contact the WikiVIP team with a voice recording to help contribute to the project.

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GE’s bringing good things, and massive robots, to life


Welcome to Time Machines, where we offer up a selection of mechanical oddities, milestone gadgets and unique inventions to test out your tech-history skills.

America was in the middle of a post-war economic boom during the ’50s and industries were in a rush to build the future, often with outlandish results. RCA-Whirlpool was busy whipping up the “miracle kitchen,” chock-full of mod-cons to make the Jetsons jealous, and Simplicity Mfg. Co.’s air-conditioned, bubble-domed lawnmowers arrived to ease the painful process of landscaping. General Electric (GE), a longtime hotbed of innovation and research, had various projects underway, including engineer Ralph Mosher’s Cybernetic Anthropomorphic Machine Systems (CAMS). Mosher was building man-amplifying tools that would allow users to control robotic appendages with natural human movement. Not to be left out, the US Army was plotting the future of rough- and remote-terrain vehicles, and it had its eye on GE and Mosher’s work.


Consulting engineer Ralph Mosher and GE’s VP of research and development Dr. Arthur Bueche

The CAMS project was dedicated to fine-tuning human-control systems, since autonomous robots were still a bit half-baked and would require more computing power than was available. Mosher built the controls so that machines could echo human movements with increased precision, while also augmenting the strength of its human user. In 1956, Mosher’s “Yes Man” project was highlighted in Lifemagazine, which touted it as a “chivalrous robot,” capable of such a delicate touch that it could assist a young lady with her coat and even take a selfie after picking up a camera (and not crushing it, essentially). An operator was able to control the robotic appendages because of Mosher’s “force feedback,” which helped mediate the level of pressure applied through its electromechanical claws. (Imagine a robot ripping off a doorknob as it attempts to simply open a door.) By sending back a portion of the sensory feedback from a remote manipulator to the operator, it helped the user gauge the appropriate level of pressure that should be applied.

In 1958, Mosher’s work had seen some iterative development and was now called “Handyman.” This time it was developed as a method for handling radioactive equipment, with an operator strapped into a harness that controlled a set of Doctor Octopus-like robotic arms from a safe distance. While there were definite military angles to the development, GE was also still building tools for the consumer market, and the benefits of applying this research to intuitively controlled industrial machines was apparent. By 1961, the Army decided to team up with GE in order to further the research on a “walking” vehicle concept, planning to incorporate Mosher’s CAM control as a way to drive its four “legs.” As the years went on, others agencies would get involved with GE and Mosher’s unique man-machine control interface, including ARPA (Advanced Research Projects Agency), the DoD and the Navy.

In 1966, the Army contracted GE to build a working prototype of its quadruped design, which could be likened to today’s BigDog robot by Boston Dynamics except that it was “driven” by a human pilot and stood about 11 feet high. The “walking truck” was powered by a 90-horsepower, gasoline-fueled engine, weighed in at about 3,000 pounds and had four jointed legs in order to move around. The on-board operator would control the legs of the vehicle using pedals and hand controls; e.g., the driver’s right arm and leg would control the vehicle’s right front and rear legs, respectively. This imbued the machine’s movement with human dexterity and decision making, while leveraging its ruggedness and strength. The machine was able to lift a 500-pound load with one foot and rescue a jeep that was stuck in a mud hole.

In 1965, Mosher and the GE team began work on a parallel project that also used CAM controls and was developed by both the Army and Navy. It was called the Hardiman I, and where the original Handyman project was controlled from a distance, this time the user would sit inside an exoskeleton framework. The goal was to directly augment the wearer’s lifting ability so that it could assist in remote and restricted areas where access to forklifts and other heavy-lifting equipment would be limited. The Hardiman I was built and tested in separate sections, beginning with a single arm and leg, before the entire exoskeleton was assembled. The single-arm tests were largely successful, enabling it to lift a 750-pound load. The leg tests were more problematic, with difficulties in perfecting the feedback mechanism and mobility. When fully assembled, the Hardiman I would stand six feet tall, weigh 1,500 pounds and use a combination of hydromechanical (hands) and electrohydraulic servos (arms and legs) for control and motion. After years of development, however, the government’s contract ran out before a fully successful model could be completed.

We may not have seen the GE Hardiman I come to fruition, and the quadruped vehicle never seemed to catch on, but Mosher’s work definitely made an impact on future researchers. Marc Raibert, founder of the robotics company Boston Dynamics, said, “The GE walking truck was one of those inspirational projects some of us remember from when we were kids, just getting interested in technology.” Although Raibert’s projects, like BigDog, are not built around human controls, there is some crossover with Mosher’s research at GE. “Ralph’s designs had captured the key ingredient of force feedback; in his machines, the forces were fed back to the human operator to give him or her a sense of the environmental interaction of the limbs under control. In our designs, force feedback is still important, but the control algorithms running on the computer [are] the target of the feedback: same principle with a different implementation.” The concept of massive, heavy-lifting exoskeletons seems to have fallen out of favor as well, in lieu of smaller supportive devices. Companies like Ekso Bionics have employed the technology as a rehabilitation tool and assistive device, while military developers, such as Lockheed Martin and its HULC exoskeleton, have opted to work on flexible field units for subtly amplifying load capacity and endurance. There doesn’t appear to be a single, unified path of development for man-amplifying and robotic technology; instead, researchers seem to be sampling from “a kind of technical stew,” as Raibert puts it.

[Images courtesy of the Museum of Innovation and Science]

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