Thursday, November 24, 2011

Protect IP Aims to Censor the Internet; Protect Big Corporations

  In October, Congress proposed a new law known as Protect Intellectual Property (Protect IP) Act.
The proposed bill, also known as SOPA (Stop Online Piracy Act) in the House, suggests that
"copyright infringement" is a felony, and thus anyone who "infringes" on copyright shall be accused of a felony. The possible charges for copyright offenders is up to 5 years of prison.

  The ethical problems with this proposed bill may not be immediately obvious. What supporters of the bill won't tell you is that even a normal user online could be accused of copyright infringement and could face felony charges. The part that I get very upset about is that Protect IP even labels non-commercial use of content as copyright infringement.

  But normal users and internet citizens aren't the only ones who can be punished through this act. Websites that are "suspicious" of hosting files that violate copyright can be censored, which is the nice way of saying that they can be blocked at anytime.

  There are more than political problems with this bill. If Protect IP went into effect, this would prevent technically sophisticated internet users from using their own DNS system with reliability. It is not the fact that DNS wouldn't work, it just wouldn't be reliable or secure since the government would hold the right to peer in on any connection, even ones routed through private DNS systems.

  While the Business Software Alliance, an organization made up of Microsoft, Apple, Adobe, and other major corporations have supported the law, some well known organizations have opposed the law as well. Such organizations include the Electronic Frontier Foundation, Mozilla (makers of the popular browser, Firefox), Creative Commons, and Wikimedia (the corporate parent of Wikipedia).

 Individual citizens can also make a difference by calling your Congressperson and let them know that they think Protect IP is a bad idea. And I encourage you to do so. Also, any website or blog owner can put a banner on their website that reads "site censored" which basically displays the possible risk that the government could censor any website. You may notice that I have put that black banner on my blog as well. If you would like more information on why Protect IP is a dangerous threat to American freedom, you can visit American Censorship Day's website. 


Friday, November 11, 2011

Adobe Announces the Discontinuation of Flash for Mobile Devices

Steve Jobs must have been dancing in his grave this week, when the news broke officially from Adobe that they will be discontinuing Adobe Flash for mobile platforms. While Blackberry and Android users will still be able to receive security updates for the flash player, any users who did not already download Flash for Android or Blackberry, will no longer be able to do so.

If you weren’t paying attention, Steve Jobs famously started an anti-Flash rant with the launch of their iPhone in 2007, stating that Flash will not be permitted to run on any iPhone, and later, the iPad. He went on to bash Adobe, saying that Flash is a performance sucking power hog that depletes the battery life of devices, all too quickly. To this day, those accusations are very technically accurate. Adobe’s Flash Player, even on the most powerful computer, will not run well. It drains performance out of any device and consumes way too much power. Not to exclude the fact that Adobe Flash is also very out-of-date in terms of security. Hackers have found various ways to infect people’s machines through the Flash media player.

Adobe’s Flash for mobile will not be missed by anyone. Much to consumers’ dismay, Flash media player is considered a necessary evil. Since Flash media player is widely used as a plug-in for video on many websites, such as YouTube, although they are transitioning to an HTML5 based web video player, but is still in beta. Adobe’s Flash player is also known to be the plug-in of choice for many web based applications, such as online games.

Despite the fact that majority of the world’s interactive content has been using Flash up to this point, there are websites and content producers that are switching to HTML5, which is the new open standard for the internet, that won’t require consumers of such content to download any bloated plug-ins at all. The most notable push to HTML5 has been from Apple, and Steve Jobs, with the major push to open web standards that are not bloated as Flash is known to be. The transition to HTML5 is occurring, and while it is not exactly happening in a heart beat, it can be said that the transition is moving along just fine.

While it is to the perception of consumers that Adobe is not happy about discontinuing Flash, that is not the case, or at least Adobe does not want consumers to think that way. Adobe released a statement that goes like this. “HTML5 is now universally supported on major mobile devices, in some cases exclusively. This makes HTML5 the best solution for creating and deploying content in the browser across mobile platforms.” Danny Winokur, Adobe’s vice president of interactive development. Mr. Winokur also tried to convey the public into thinking that Adobe didn’t lose to Apple, but rather “was listening to its customers.” Whether or not this is the case is up for debate, but the point is that HTML5 is the future of web content and Adobe has finally come out of its shell to admit just that.

Keep in mind that only the mobile versions of Flash player have been discontinued. Existing users of Flash for Android or Blackberry can use it and will continue to receive security updates and patches. The desktop versions of Flash for Windows, Macintosh, and Linux will still be supported and continually developed, but I have to think at some point that Adobe will completely give up on Flash and will show its support for HTML5.