“Last week, members of parliament asked five German publishers (German) whether they’re in need of government funding. No, said the five publishers in unison. But we do need you to make a law to get money from search engines like Google, or rather just Google, which has a 96% market share in Germany (German). Publishers have accused Google of making money off of their content, which they are especially sensitive to since they haven’t yet figured out how to be profitable online.” More.
By Felix Salmon
Is Google becoming a key arm of the law-enforcement complex? It certainly seems to be so with respect to art thefts. I first came across this idea back in November, when Bloomberg Marketsprofiled Jeff Gundlach, who was hit by art thieves in September:
The cerebral Gundlach also gave investigators a tip for solving the crime. He says that while he was at home in his family room, it dawned on him that thieves would do a Google search using his grandmother’s name to find out more about the paintings and how much they might be worth.
Gundlach told the authorities that they should check the Internet to see who might have googled the name Helen Fuchs. He says exactly two such searches were executed: one by him and one by the thieves.
Now, another man has been arrested for art theft, and was found in much the same way:
In their investigation into the art theft, [officials] found that Mr. Istavrioglou had searched the Internet for reports about the robbery after it took place but before the story became news.
Law enforcement officials, it seems, have pretty easy and routine access to Google’s search-history database, and this is surely only the beginning when it comes to sifting through huge amounts of data to find evidence of crimes. The SEC, for one, has had a large data-mining team in place for a good five years now, going through enormous quantities of data to look for signs of suspicious activity.
Even journalists are getting in on the act of using data to uncover criminal activity. The Sun Sentinel, in Florida, managed to obtain a year’s worth of SunPass toll records for cop cars. That meant that they had data on the amount of time it took cops to drive from one toll plaza to the next. All they needed to do then was measure those distances, divide the distances by the time taken to drive that length of road, and come up with an average speed, for cops who were often just commuting to or from their houses, out of their jurisdiction. The result? The Sun Sentinel found “almost 800 cops from a dozen agencies driving 90 to 130 mph on our highways” — in a state where speeding cops have caused at least 320 crashes and 19 deaths since 2004.
Part of the reason why it has taken so long to bring Libor prosecutions is that going through millions of email and IM records, looking for smoking guns, is still a laborious and time-consuming process. But as data mining techniques continue to evolve, and as databases become increasingly unified and tractable, and our lives are lived almost entirely online it’s going to be harder and harder for criminals not to leave a discoverable data trail — especially opportunistic criminals, who break the law when they’re given a chance, as opposed to more considered criminals, who spend a lot of time plotting a crime before committing it.
It stands to reason, given advances in computer power and given the size of the networks that we all involve ourselves in every day, that the kind of data crunching that used to be solely the domain of places like the NSA and GCHQ is now going to be available to local police forces and even ordinary citizens, including journalists. The privacy implications are profound, of course: millions of innocent people are going to have their personal data combed on a real-time basis, every day. But that seems to be inevitable, insofar as it isn’t already a reality.
This paper compares the impact of distance, a standard proxy for trade costs, on eBay and offline international trade flows. It considers the same set of 62 countries and the same basket of goods for both types of transactions, and finds the effect of distance to be on average 65 percent smaller on the eBay online platform than offline.
Using interaction variables, this difference is explained by a reduction of information and trust frictions enabled through online technology. The analysis estimates the welfare gains from a reduction in offline frictions to the level prevailing online at 29 percent on average. Remote countries that are little known, with weak institutions, high levels of income inequality, inefficient ports, and little internet penetration benefit the most, as online markets help overcome government and offline market failures.
This paper is a product of the International Trade Department Division, Poverty Reduction and Economic Management Network. It is part of a larger effort by the World Bank to provide open access to its research and make a contribution to development policy discussions around the world. October 2012
Online Map Creation using Azimuthal equidistant projection
All points on this map are at proportionately correct distances from Haifa, Israel, as all points are at the correct azimuth (direction) from the Haifa, Israel.
If your company is anything like mine, you probably have been in this situation (or something like it):
ME: Well, I just reset my active-directory login, but doing so caused my computer’s keychain of passwords to stop working, since it has a different password than what is now the new active-directory login.
TECH: Oh, that’s pretty easy to fix. Do I have permission to take over your computer for a minute?
At which point, my screen flashes, I click on “agree” when asked if I will share my computer, and the cursor begins to be controlled by a tech somewhere in North Carolina while I sit in Manhattan. I watch as she opens windows, scrolls through menus and types information into various fields and forms.
And everything is again right with my computer.
Let’s compare that with another tech-support phone call that many of us encounter:
MY MOTHER: Hi honey, it’s me. Something’s wrong with the computer.
ME: Oh? What’s the problem?
MOM: I used to have Safari in my dock of applications, and now it’s gone.
ME: O.K. Start by going to the Go menu and open your Applications window.
MOM: I don’t understand anything you just said.
ME: O.K. Um, do you see “Go” at the top of your screen?
MOM: I’m looking … Finder, File, Edit, View, Go!
ME: O.K., click on that.
MOM: I’ve clicked on it. What do I do next?
ME: Click on “Applications.”
MOM: Got it.
ME: Scroll down until you see Safari.
MOM: O.K. Scrolling…
I’ll spare you the rest. Suffice it to say, as a technology advice columnist, I get a lot of questions like this — and not just from my mother. You have the same problem, right?
I’ve found that it’s easier to take control of someone’s computer and fix problems myself than try to talk somebody through an elaborate solution. Not to mention that the person seeking help gets the added benefit of being able to see what I did on the computer. Having seen my handiwork, they may be able to repeat the same fix later, without needing to call me for help. (I can dream, can’t I?)
Fortunately, it is possible to do this remotely for the computers of loved ones and friends, in much the same way that your corporate I.T. department can. Generally categorized under the term “remote access,” these services let you view and control another person’s computer (or your own machine) from any computer with an Internet connection.
Before you worry that these services expose you to hackers, scammers and outright thieves, know that in order for any remote-access service to work, you have to take specific steps to enable a computer, and that access is controlled through a system of passwords. Using remote access is as much a security risk as logging in to your bank’s Web site, giving your credit card number to a phone operator at a catalog retailer, or walking outside with your wallet in your pocket.
If you use popular communications software like Skype or iChat, you already have some remote capabilities. Those applications have screen-sharing features, which allow you and another user to agree to see what is on your or their display.
That’s helpful, but it still requires a detailed phone conversation in which you direct your friend/family member/colleague around their desktop and hard drive as they retain control over the computer (“Just click once and wait for the label to be highlighted. No, you just clicked twice and opened the folder, go back…”)
What you really want is the ability to look at another person’s display and take control of their computer (is there a way to say this that doesn’t sound sinister?). There are several services that provide this feature, but the one I prefer is LogMeIn.
LogMeIn offers a range of products, but my favorite is LogMeIn Free. That’s because it’s free.
LogMeIn Free is designed and marketed as a way to set up your own computer for remote access, but it can easily be used to set up someone else’s instead. First you set up an account at logmein.com. Then you download a small piece of software onto the computer you wish to control and use that application to link that computer to your logmein.com account. You can add as many computers to your account as you wish.
Once you’ve linked a computer to your account, you’re able to view and control it from any Web browser after logging into your account and entering the password you assigned to it. This is another reason I prefer LogMeIn to some other services. It doesn’t require you to have any special software on your end — just a computer and an Internet connection. Or you can use an Apple smartphone or tablet and a free app; Android support is coming soon, the company says.
When you take over another computer, it will appear in a window on logmein.com. You have the option to view that window in full screen, effectively turning your keyboard and mouse or trackpad into the other computer’s. That’s not to say that, for example, my mother is locked out of using her machine when I access it; her computer will accept inputs from her or me, so we can switch off if need be. If we both try to do different things at the same time, the computer gets a little confused and the cursor doesn’t really move, so you have to work in turns.
LogMeIn Free allows the host computer to control some of the parameters of remote access. You can set it so whoever is requesting access has to get your consent before they can control your computer, or you can grant them automatic access. When your computer is being controlled remotely, LogMeIn will display a small window on your screen letting you know it’s been entered. A user can also turn LogMeIn off at any time, making remote access impossible. You also have the power to cancel a remote session if you’d like.
There is a little bit of lag time when you’re controlling someone else’s computer. Don’t expect the cursor to move perfectly smoothly, as it will jump and stutter a little bit. LogMeIn is great to change a setting or find a misplaced file, but the connection it uses isn’t very robust, so accessing Mom’s computer to, say, watch a video she has stored on it is not going to be a satisfying viewing experience.
There are some other limitations to LogMeIn Free. You can’t drag a file from your desktop and drop it into Mom’s; for that, you’d have to upgrade to LogMeIn Pro, which costs $70 annually. Copying and pasting text between machines is not always available, either.
But those are small quibbles, to be honest. What LogMeIn has done for me and my family is better than any therapist. Frustrating phone calls are a thing of the past. Inconvenient house calls are also in the rearview mirror. Now, when there’s a problem, I can quickly and easily get online, assess the situation and do my best to remedy it. Familial tranquillity has been restored.
Well, at least when it comes to the computer.
Controversial TED Talk: “Big ideas” conference TED came under fire today for apparently censoring a TED talk about income inequality and tax policy by Seattle-based venture capitalist Nick Hanauer, but TED founder Chris Anderson is saying that’s not exactly what happened.
Apparently, the reason that Hanauer’s talk wasn’t posted to the TED website wasn’t because — as the speaker himself posited — “[my] arguments threaten an economic orthodoxy and political structure that many powerful people have a huge stake in defending.” It’s because it just wasn’t good enough.
[The censorship] story [is] so misleading [that] it would be funny […] except it successfully launched an aggressive online campaign against us. […] [It’s actually] a non-story about a talk not being chosen, because we believed we had better ones, [that] somehow got turned into a scandal about censorship. Which is like saying that if I call the New York Times and they turn down my request to publish an op-ed by me, they’re censoring me.
Despite not making it to the TED site, Hanauer’s talk is now online (and, judging by the audience reaction, it was actually quite well received).
Ze Frank’s nerdcore comedy
Performer and web toymaker Ze Frank delivers a hilarious nerdcore standup routine, then tells us what he’s seriously passionate about: helping people create and interact using simple, addictive web tools.
Ze Frank rose to Internet fame in 2001 with his viral video “How to Dance Properly,” and has been making online comedy, web toys and massively shared experiences ever since. Watch his newest: “A Show.”Full bio »