Blog Ipsa Loquitur

Bitcoin, that digital currency only several orders of magnitude less useful than Xbox Live Points, has been the subject of some really fun news pieces recently. There was the e-sports league surreptitiously running a mining operation with its users’ computers. There was the exchange which shut its doors and ran off with $260,000+ of its customers’ “money”. A speculative bubble around Bitcoin popped last month, collapsing nearly $200 in under a week. At least you know Bitcoin is always worth a funny story.

So the largest Bitcoin exchange (that thing which converts Bitcoins into money) is a Magic: The Gathering card trading site (yes, really) called Mt. Gox, which has trafficked in Bitcoin for the last few years. They just had (one of?) their bank account(s?) seized by Homeland Security. Ars has a good writeup of why this has happened, including detailed quotes from the key portion of the warrant.

tl;dr: Mt. Gox forgot to register as a currency exchange, which is a federal felony.

As part of the Money Laundering Suppression Act of 1994, all Money Transmitting Businesses must register with the Department of the Treasury. Neither Mt. Gox nor its US subsidiary Mutum Sigullum, LLC. are registered as such. Whoops. The Bitcoin subreddit is directing their displeasure toward Mt. Gox, whose navigation of regulatory matters is admittedly pretty displeasure-worthy. It’s okay, guys! An efficient market would never allow such egregious incompetence to handle two-thirds of all Bitcoin exchanges. (Yes, Virginia, etc.)

So wait, the coming crypto-currency wars? The stateless society? Post-capitalism anarcho-digital-libertarian utopia? All sidetracked because someone didn’t do their homework? What, don’t any lawyers take bitcoins? Hm.

How about Magic cards?

Published on under The News

Prince is DMCAing videos with his music in the background. This isn’t new. What’s new is that he’s sending takedown notices to Vine, a video service which hosts six second videos.

Vine launched less than three months ago, but the first DMCA takedown notices are already coming in. Among the first rights holders to file a grievance with Twitter is NPG Records, Princes music label. […] Chilling Effects, a watchdog site where Twitter publicizes such takedown requests, reveals that on March 22nd, NPG Records contacted the company and asked for eight videos to be brought down. As best we can tell, Twitter complied with the request, as none of the URLs are currently functioning.

via The Verge.

Published on under The Digital Age

The New York World reports on the New York City Open Data Law of 2012, and includes a couple of choice quotes from a certain open government activist:

It is unclear what consequences agencies will face if they are not compliant with Local Law 11. “Ideally, someone would step up and be the policeman,” said Dominic Mauro, staff attorney for the good government group Reinvent Albany.

Mauro says that that a new administration will have to get on board, because the information tracked by city agencies ultimately belongs to the public. “Taxpayers fund the government and the government collects the data,” he said. “Its our data. We don’t pay taxes so we can not know what goes on.”

Aside from the double negative there at the end, this Mauro guy sounds both insightful and handsome.

Published on under Gov 2.0

I think it’s pretty safe to say I’m not exactly a copyright maximalist. Occasionally, I write sarcastic/whiny bits about absurdly long copyright duration and point out that we might still be able to have nice things if we had slightly less copyright. Congress doesn’t seem to agree, as the only time they address copyright law seems to be when they’re trying to make more of it, not less of it. See: the Mickey Mouse copyright extension and wait until 2023 for Disney’s flagship mus musculus to almost enter the public domain before being snapped back up.

So amidst all that, it’s nice to see folks in Congress taking bold action on copyright. By downloading TV shows and movies repeatedly:

In late October, someone at the U.S. House of Representatives decided to catch up on the latest season of Dexter, illegally downloading an episode of the TV series while at a congressional office. In the days that followed, with Hurricane Sandy threatening to keep federal workers hunkered down at home, employees of Congress downloaded the 2012 mob film Lawless, a Halloween-themed episode of The Middle, and an episode from Season 9 of CSI: New York.

Over the last four months, employees of the House of Representatives have illegally downloaded dozens of films and TV shows, according to a report shared with Whispers by ScanEye, a website that tracks what IP addresses have downloaded on BitTorrent. BitTorrent is a protocol for sharing large files over the Internet. Unauthorized downloads of copyrighted material is illegal in the U.S.

The full article has a full list of what was downloaded from tracked Congressional office: my personal favorite? DeGrassi. Frankly, if they want to watch people bickering like teens and high school power struggles, I wouldn’t have imagined they’d need to download something.

Published on under The Digital Age

Last week, The Atlantic ran an ad from noted Anti-Xenu enthusiasts Scientology, before being ridiculed for taking money from crazy people, and ultimately pulling the ad from their site. I guess some of the uproar was about taking money from people who’ve been accused of running a cult, or possibly some perceived ambiguity of the term “sponsored post” (what do you mean ‘a word from our sponsors’ NBC? do you believe the Dodge Dart is the #1 car in America or not help i’m so confused). Whatever. Post went up, post went down, and The Atlantic issued an apology.

But not before noted internet institution Boing Boing took the opportunity to lampoon either the outcry, the original ad, or Scientology itself. I’m not sure:

The driving force behind this unparalleled era of growth is Cthulhu himself, who is not only a cosmic entity of inordinate and terrible power, but also chairman of the board of the Esoteric Order of Dagon. Mr. Cthulhu is unrelenting in His work, providing charitable assistance to worthwhile causes, serving communities with fresh humanitarian initiatives, and afflicting all mankind with a transcendent anxiety though His eldritch murmurs.

Never to be outdone, America’s Finest News Source Comma The Onion ran an even sillier sponsored post:

2012 proved to be just another in a succession of landmark years for the Taliban, as the influential Islamic fundamentalist organization continued its awe-inspiring push toward unprecedented expansion.

Even following a decade marked with some difficulties, the devoted members of the Afghani cultural and political movement have proven consistently successful in their trailblazing efforts to continue the Taliban’s constant recruiting of talented and diverse young insurgents and building its thriving base of support from politicians and citizens alike to over 30 times that of a decade ago.

Scientology might be a parody of itself, but I’m quite thankful for the actual parodies.

Published on under Irreverently Irrelevant

This is the coolest name for the coolest and scariest piece of software I’ve seen in quite some time. Inception: a program that you run on your computer, and then plug your computer into someone else’s locked computer. Inception then breaks into the other guy’s computer. How? By being insanely awesome/scary:

Inception’s main mode works as follows: By presenting a Serial Bus Protocol 2 (SBP-2) unit directory to the victim machine over the IEEE1394 FireWire interface, the victim operating system thinks that a SBP-2 device has connected to the FireWire port. Since SBP-2 devices utilize Direct Memory Access (DMA) for fast, large bulk data transfers (e.g., FireWire hard drives and digital camcorders), the victim lowers its shields and enables DMA for the device.

The tool now has full read/write access to the lower 4GB of RAM on the victim. Once DMA is granted, the tool proceeds to search through available memory pages for signatures at certain offsets in the operating system’s password authentication modules. Once found, the tool short circuits the code that is triggered if an incorrect password is entered.

An analogy for this operation is planting an idea into the memory of the machine; the idea that every password is correct (ed: omg wtf). In other words, the nerdy equivalent of a memory inception.

By virtue of the specific kind of high-speed connection Firewire has, Inception makes the target machine think that every password is the right password. I really really hope it makes that absurdly loud BWAAAAM sound while it works. Then again, that might not be so stealthy.

Either way, I definitely recommend you stick gum in pretty much every port your computer has.

Published on under Irreverently Irrelevant