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Mozilla breaks our hearts, adds DRM to Firefox

Cory Doctorow - 2014, May 14 - 10:28

For months, I've been following the story that the Mozilla project was set to add closed source Digital Rights Management technology to its free/open browser Firefox, and today they've made the announcement, which I've covered in depth for The Guardian. Mozilla made the decision out of fear that the organization would haemorrhage users and become irrelevant if it couldn't support Netflix, Hulu, BBC iPlayer, Amazon Video, and other services that only work in browsers that treat their users as untrustable adversaries.

They've gone to great -- even unprecedented -- lengths to minimize the ways in which this DRM can attack Firefox users. But I think there's more that they can, and should, do. I also am skeptical of their claim that it was DRM or irrelevance, though I think they were sincere in making it. I think they hate that it's come to this and that no one there is happy about it.

I could not be more heartsick at this turn of events.

We need to turn the tide on DRM, because there is no place in post-Snowden, post-Heartbleed world for technology that tries to hide things from its owners. DRM has special protection under the law that makes it a crime to tell people if there are flaws in their DRM-locked systems -- so every DRM system is potentially a reservoir of long-lived vulnerabilities that can be exploited by identity thieves, spies, and voyeurs.

It’s clear that Mozilla isn’t happy about this turn of events, and in our conversations, people there characterised it as something they’d been driven to by the entertainment companies and the complicity of the commercial browser vendors, who have enthusiastically sold out their users’ integrity and security.

Mitchell Baker, the executive chairwoman of the Mozilla Foundation and Mozilla Corporation, told me that “this is not a happy day for the web” and “it’s not in line with the values that we’re trying to build. This does not match our value set.”

But both she and Gal were adamant that they felt that they had no choice but to add DRM if they were going to continue Mozilla’s overall mission of keeping the web free and open.

I am sceptical about this claim. I don't doubt that it’s sincerely made, but I found the case for it weak. When I pressed Gal for evidence that without Netflix Firefox users would switch away, he cited the huge volume of internet traffic generated by Netflix streams.

There's no question that Netflix video and other video streams account for an appreciable slice of the internet’s overall traffic. But video streams are also the bulkiest files to transfer. That video streams use a lot of bytes isn't a surprise.

When a charitable nonprofit like Mozilla makes a shift as substantial as this one – installing closed-source software designed to treat computer users as untrusted adversaries – you’d expect there to be a data-driven research story behind it, meticulously documenting the proposition that without DRM irrelevance is inevitable. The large number of bytes being shifted by Netflix is a poor proxy for that detailed picture.

There are other ways in which Mozilla’s DRM is better for user freedom than its commercial competitors’. While the commercial browsers’ DRM assigns unique identifiers to users that can be used to spy on viewing habits across multiple video providers and sessions, the Mozilla DRM uses different identifiers for different services.

Firefox’s adoption of closed-source DRM breaks my heart

Categories: Blogs

Podcast: Why it is not possible to regulate robots

Cory Doctorow - 2014, May 12 - 08:44

Here's a reading (MP3) of a my recent Guardian column, Why it is not possible to regulate robots, which discusses where and how robots can be regulated, and whether there is any sensible ground for "robot law" as distinct from "computer law."

One thing that is glaringly absent from both the Heinleinian and Asimovian brain is the idea of software as an immaterial, infinitely reproducible nugget at the core of the system. Here, in the second decade of the 21st century, it seems to me that the most important fact about a robot – whether it is self-aware or merely autonomous – is the operating system, configuration, and code running on it.

If you accept that robots are just machines – no different in principle from sewing machines, cars, or shotguns – and that the thing that makes them "robot" is the software that runs on a general-purpose computer that controls them, then all the legislative and regulatory and normative problems of robots start to become a subset of the problems of networks and computers.

If you're a regular reader, you'll know that I believe two things about computers: first, that they are the most significant functional element of most modern artifacts, from cars to houses to hearing aids; and second, that we have dramatically failed to come to grips with this fact. We keep talking about whether 3D printers should be "allowed" to print guns, or whether computers should be "allowed" to make infringing copies, or whether your iPhone should be "allowed" to run software that Apple hasn't approved and put in its App Store.

Practically speaking, though, these all amount to the same question: how do we keep computers from executing certain instructions, even if the people who own those computers want to execute them? And the practical answer is, we can't.

Mastering by John Taylor Williams: [email protected]

John Taylor Williams is a audiovisual and multimedia producer based in Washington, DC and the co-host of the Living Proof Brew Cast. Hear him wax poetic over a pint or two of beer by visiting In his free time he makes "Beer Jewelry" and "Odd Musical Furniture." He often "meditates while reading cookbooks."


Categories: Blogs

Kakapo chick imminent?

Another Chance to See - 2014, March 2 - 18:12

Sirocco Kakapo (@Spokesbird) tweeted at 1:31 PM on Sun, Mar 02, 2014: Boom! Cheeping can be heard from inside Lisa's crushed-but-taped-up egg! Claws crossed for some good news today: (

--- Originally published at

Categories: Blogs

Kakapo chick hatched!

Another Chance to See - 2014, March 2 - 18:09

Sirocco Kakapo (@Spokesbird) tweeted at 7:43 PM on Sun, Mar 02, 2014:Skraaarrrk! I'm so very pleased to introduce you to the very first kākāpō chick of 2014: (
--- Originally published at

Categories: Blogs

2014 Douglas Adams Memorial Lecture

Another Chance to See - 2014, February 26 - 10:18

This year's lecture is March 11th at 7:30pm. For more information please visit this page at Save The Rhino: The Science of Harry Potter and the Mathematics of The SimpsonsThis year's lecture will explore a theme close to the hearts of many of Douglas' fans. We will be exploring science in fiction, taking a closer look at two popular fictional worlds - Harry Potter and the Simpsons - and exploring the science within.--- Originally published at

Categories: Blogs

2014 season has begun!

Green City Acres - 2014, February 24 - 20:24


Here we go again. Even though we’ve got another blast of winter, that hasn’t stalled our enthusiasm to get this season off to a great start. Even though it’s cold outside, with the help of our vertical nursery system, we can start many of our crops early and summer season crops now, even when it’s below freezing outside.

Today we’ve got beets, tomatoes, kale, pac choi, basil, and peppers going. More to come tomorrow!

Categories: Blogs

NMR Data Evaluation: Review of Covariance Applications

NMR blog - 2014, February 10 - 17:00

Review of an important new NMR technique requiring special data evaluation.

Categories: Blogs

How to investigate soft matter using Variable Field NMR Relaxometry

NMR blog - 2014, February 7 - 17:00

Slides of a Talk presented at a GIDRM Workshop in Bari (Italy).

Categories: Blogs

Kakapo nesting on Codfish Island

Another Chance to See - 2014, February 4 - 14:27

Exciting news from the DOC blog. The first kakapo eggs in three years have been discovered by rangers on Codfish Island/Whenua Hou. The two nests that have been found so far belong to Lisa, an experienced kākāpō mum, and Tumeke who has bred before but had infertile eggs.--- Originally published at

Categories: Blogs

A new paradigm streamlining the analysis of NMR spectra of small molecules

NMR blog - 2014, January 24 - 17:00

Slides of a Talk presented at a Spanish NMR Discussion Group meeting.

Categories: Blogs

Seven Conjectures of NMR Relaxometry

NMR blog - 2014, January 24 - 17:00

Slides of a Talk presented at an FFC NMR Conference.

Categories: Blogs

From Spin Hamiltonian to Spectra

NMR blog - 2014, January 21 - 17:00

Slides for a tutorial on the origins and usage of spin Hamiltonian.

Categories: Blogs

Automatic Structure Verification (ASV) as an AI wizard

NMR blog - 2014, January 21 - 17:00

A poster analyzing the milestones met and the challenges looming ahead.

Categories: Blogs

Toward direct application of multivariate statistical analysis to MRS Datasets

NMR blog - 2014, January 20 - 17:00

A new approach to Magnetic Resonance Spectroscopy in medicine.

Categories: Blogs

Molecular Spins: a new Frontier of Chemical Physics and Magnetic Resonance?

NMR blog - 2014, January 18 - 17:00

A 2012 ENC poster+talk about a physical conjecture is available online.

Categories: Blogs

Metabolomics of Intact Tissues: Discrimination Between Osteolytic Lesion Regions ...

NMR blog - 2014, January 16 - 17:00

A nice and novel application of NMR in clinical medicine (2012 poster).

Categories: Blogs

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Another Chance to See - 2014, January 16 - 07:57

Google is honouring Dian Fossey's 82nd birthday with a Google Doodle today.
--- Originally published at

Categories: Blogs

Automated QC with Compound Structure Verification and Quantitation

NMR blog - 2014, January 15 - 17:00

A 2012 ENC poster about quality-control using Mnova software goes online.

Categories: Blogs

An Expert System for the Auto Assignment of 1H NMR Spectra of Small Molecules

NMR blog - 2014, January 11 - 17:00

A 2012 ENC poster about the new Mnova software feature goes online.

Categories: Blogs

Supreme Court Says: You Can Copy That Floppy DNA Material

slyck - 2013, June 12 - 22:09

Pharmaceuticals suffer patent setback.

Categories: Blogs