Blog Ipsa Loquitur

When last year’s hard drive shortage threatened Backblaze’s all-you-can-store cloud backup service, the company had to get creative to keep up its 50TB-a-day hard drive habit. The solution: external hard drives from retail stores and an army of volunteers making sure they kept coming.

GigaOM on Backblaze’s creative measures to keep the company going. I actually use them for backing up my stuff online. They had a fun little blog post about the problems they saw during the hard drive shortage following the 2011 Thailand floods, and GigaOM follows up with an interesting story about how you keep “unlimited storage” from being “unlimited* storage.”

Published on under Irreverently Irrelevant

Josh Barro, writing for the National Review:

Research has shown that the confidence of an eyewitness is the principal determinant of whether or not jurors will believe that an eyewitness made an accurate identification (Lindsay, Wells, and, Rumpel)…

Under very favorable conditions (e.g., a good view, a fair lineup), the correlation between confidence and accuracy is probably somewhere around .40. For purposes of comparison, consider that the correlation between a person’s height and a person’s gender is .71. This means that confidence is a poorer predictor of accuracy than height is a predictor of gender.

There’s been a lot of literature written on how the human brain isn’t as good as we think it is at recollecting things. And when it comes to deciding how accurate a memory is, jurors (whether they know it or not) apparently use a witness’s confidence as a primary indicator of the witness’s accuracy; this is a bad idea. That much I knew, but I didn’t know that it’s twice as lousy an idea as using someone’s height to predict their gender. There are tons of great pieces of research on this stuff.

This particular article is about how the human brain isn’t even good at remembering how confident it was when it remembered something.

It’s a good thing we didn’t build an entire legal system on the premise of eyewitness testimony. Things might get a little ugly in that case.

Published on under Legal Theory

One of my old law professors, James Grimmelmann, has written another piece for Ars Technica. When one of my favorite thinkers writes for one of my favorite web sites, you know I’m going to post that link here at like relativistic speeds. This one’s about how the copyright system has gotten a little insane as courts try to apply analog rules to digital media. Spoiler alert: law meets world rather poorly.

Suppose I could offer you a choice of two technologies for watching TV online. Behind Door Number One sits a free-to-watch service that uses off-the-shelf technology and that buffers just enough of each show to put the live stream on the Internet. Behind Door Number Two lies a subscription service that requires custom-designed hardware and makes dozens of copies of each show. Which sounds easier to build—and to use? More importantly, which is more likely to be legal?

If you went with Door Number One, then you are a sane person, untainted by the depravity of modern copyright law. But you are also wrong. The company behind Door Number One, iCraveTV, was enjoined out of existence a decade ago. The company behind Door Number Two, Aereo, just survived its first round in court and is still going strong.

Go read the rest of Why Johnny Can’t Stream, because it’s a great exploration of the landscape of copyright law as it struggles to keep pace with technology, and how it’s gone bonkers as a result.

Published on under The Digital Age

From The Verge comes a tale as old as imaginary digital currency itself:

Remember pirateat40, the e-currency banker we speculated could be the Bernie Madoff of Bitcoin? Well, it looks like he owes a lot of people money. On August 17, pirateat40 announced the closure of Bitcoin Savings & Trust, a virtual hedge fund that promised to pay high rewards to investors who parked their Bitcoins there. Ten days later, investors are still waiting to get paid and pirateat40 is on the defensive. “When I know, you will,” says his away message in the fund’s official chat room, an effort to quiet the loudening chorus of, “WHERE ARE MY BITCOINS?”

What? The guy who promised interest rates of 350% per year was running a colossal ($5.6 million!) pyramid scheme? No way. That has to be legit.

Actually, I would say that someone running a pyramid scheme with Bitcoin probably does as much to legitimize the currency as anything else.

Published on under The News

Marco Arment on how the Apple victory really doesn’t break Samsung, Android, or the prospective consumer’s back:

Apple’s claims from this case aren’t very far-reaching. What they won, effectively, is a weapon to use against anyone who copies a narrow set of behaviors, appearances, and packaging designs.

If Samsung wasn’t so blatantly idiotic about copying so much from the iPhone, Apple wouldn’t have won so many of their claims. In fact, Apple lost most of their more generic, less-blatantly-copied iPad claims.

Sober and well-reasoned as always. I think he’s a little generous to call the iPad claims generic; while Apple won on claims 1-3 here, they lost on the laughably broad claim 8 regarding tablet designs. Sure, everyone decided to do slim tablets with no features but a single button and a pane of glass after the iPad, but a patent to that effect is stupidly broad.

Published on under The News

Three days was more than enough for a jury in the Northern District of California to find Apple’s patents valid, to agree with Apple’s claims that Samsung willfully infringed on those patents, and to sentence Samsung’s legal team to fifteen years hard labor in the spice mines on the prison planet Kessel. Maybe not that last bit.

The long list of infringing Samsung devices will cost $1 billion, and open the door for Apple to continue its legal strategy against Samsun. The Verge’s Nilay Patel has consistently had the most cogent and readable legal analysis of this case, and he sums up the next steps:

In the long term, we’re sure to see lots of UI behaviors change across Android — most companies have already moved away from the bounceback scrolling behavior protected by the Apple patent in this case, and we’re sure to see tap-to-zoom and multitouch scrolling behavior affected on new devices as well. We’re also sure to see new handsets adopt highly differentiated designs, as Apple has proven both its design patent and trade dress claims are strong enough to persuade a jury.

That’s already happening, and it’s a good thing; Samsung’s the only phone maker Apple has sued for copying the iPhone’s design, and its more recent devices like the Galaxy S III already have unique designs. More differentiation in the market is ultimately good for consumers.

Alternatively, as Patel points out, maybe Google ponies up the money and just licenses the rubber-band snapping thing from Apple. I imagine that’d carry a stiff price tag by now, though. Vendors like Nokia and HTC have already moved to different hardware designs, and it was mostly just Samsung shamelessly aping iPhones.

Either way, Apple’s gonna make it rain injunctions on Android phones, now that a jury has found them valid. Samsung shot a lot of folks in the foot just now.

Published on under The News