Tuesday, January 26, 2016

Emulating Digital Art Works

Back in November a team at Cornell led by Oya Rieger and Tim Murray produced a white paper for the National Endowment for the Humanities entitled Preserving and Emulating Digital Art Objects. It was the result of two years of research into how continuing access could be provided to the optical disk holdings of the Rose Goldsen Archive of New Media Art at Cornell. Below the fold, some comments on the white paper.

Monday, January 18, 2016

Bitcoin's Death Spiral

More than two years ago in my first post on Bitcoin I wrote about the difficulty of maintaining its decentralized nature. Nearly a year later I wrote Economies of Scale in Peer-to-Peer Networks, a detailed explanation of why peer-to-peer currencies could not maintain decentralization for long. In a long and fascinating post Mike Hearn, one of the original developers of the Bitcoin software, has now announced that The resolution of the Bitcoin experiment is that it has failed.

The fundamental reasons for the failure are lack of decentralization at both the organizational and technical levels. You have to read Mike's post to understand the organizational issues, which would probably have doomed Bitcoin irrespective of the technical issues. They prevented Bitcoin responding to the need to increase the block size. But the block size is a minor technical issue compared to the fact that:
the block chain is controlled by Chinese miners, just two of whom control more than 50% of the hash power. At a recent conference over 95% of hashing power was controlled by a handful of guys sitting on a single stage.
As Mike says:
Even if a new team was built to replace Bitcoin Core, the problem of mining power being concentrated behind the Great Firewall would remain. Bitcoin has no future whilst it’s controlled by fewer than 10 people. And there’s no solution in sight for this problem: nobody even has any suggestions. For a community that has always worried about the block chain being taken over by an oppressive government, it is a rich irony.
Mike's post is a must-read. But reading it doesn't explain why "nobody even has any suggestions". For that you need to read Economies of Scale in Peer-to-Peer Networks.

Friday, January 15, 2016

The Internet is for Cats

It is a truth universally acknowledged that, after pr0n, the most important genre of content on the Internet is cat videos. But in the early days of the Web, there was no video. For sure, there was pr0n, but how did the Internet work without cat videos? Follow me below the fold for some research into the early history of Web content.

Wednesday, January 13, 2016

Guest post: Ilya Kreymer on oldweb.today

Recently, the remarkably productive Ilya Kreymer put up an emulation-based system for displaying archived Web pages using contemporary browsers at http://oldweb.today/. I mentioned it in my talk at the last CNI meeting, but I had misunderstood the details, so Ilya had to correct me.

Ilya's work is much more important that I originally realized. It isn't just a very good example of the way that emulation can layer useful services over archived content. It is also a different approach to delivering emulations, leveraging the current trend towards containers and thus less dependent on specialized, preservation-only technology.

I asked Ilya to write a guest post explaining how it works, which is below the fold.

Friday, January 8, 2016

Aggregating Web Archives

Starting five years ago, I've posted many times about the importance of Memento (RFC7089), and in particular about the way Memento Aggregators in principle allow the contents of all Web archives to be treated as a single, homogeneous resource. I'm part of an effort by Sawood Alam and others to address some of the issues in turning this potential into reality. Sawood has a post on the IIPC blog, Memento: Help Us Route URI Lookups to the Right Archives that reveals two interesting aspects of this work.

First, Ilya Kreymer's oldweb.today shows there is a significant demand for aggregation:
We learned in the recent surge of oldweb.today (that uses MemGator to aggregate mementos from various archives) that some upstream archives had issues handling the sudden increase in the traffic and had to be removed from the list of aggregated archives.
Second, the overlap between the collections at different Web archives is low, as shown in Sawood's diagram. This means that the contribution of even small Web archives to the effectiveness of the aggregated whole is significant.This is important in an environment where the Internet Archive has by far the biggest collection of preserved Web pages. It can be easy to think that the efforts of other Web archives add little. But Sawood's research shows that, if they can be effectively aggregated, even small Web archives can make a contribution.

Monday, January 4, 2016

Why not store it all?

Back in October I wrote Two in Two Days, linking to two of Maciej Cegłowski's barn-burning speeches, What Happens Next Will Amaze You and Haunted By Data. I should have been paying more attention, because Cory Doctorow just pointed out that three weeks after I wrote Cegłowski gave another barn-burner, this one in Sydney entitled The Website Obesity Crisis. It is a must-read, laugh-out-loud gem. Below the fold, I start from it to examine two answers to the question "why not store all of it?"

Friday, January 1, 2016

Trade Pacts and Trade Secrets

I already pointed out that:
The TPP chapter leaked by Wikileaks mandates that countries “judicial authorities shall, at least, have the authority to [...] order the destruction of devices and products found to be involved in" any activity that circumvents controls that manufacturers build into their software or devices. This makes the equipment white hats use to find vulnerabilities in, for example, things in the IoT subject to destruction.
Now, Glynn Moody at Techdirt points to a column in The Globe and Mail by Dan Breznitz, professor of Innovation Studies at the Munk School of Global Affairs at the University of Toronto. Breznitz explains that the TPP not merely greatly increases the intellectual property protections for both copyrights and patents, but also for trade secrets. Below the fold, details of some of the ways in which added protection for trade secrets is a catastrophically bad idea.