Facebook versus Power Ventures revisited

Tim Harford writes as "Undercover Economist" in the current Weekend FT about Facebook's hold on the social media market and a proposal by Luigi Zingales and Guy Rolnik to regulate a kind of social media account portability, allowing users to choose a different social network service provider while keeping their personal network. Although I did not study the details of the proposal, it seems both misguided and unnecessary. Would you want someone who is connected to you on Facebook to necessarily take that connection to a different network? Any regulation that allowed this without your consent would at least be offputting and possibly illegal in many places.

The position of Facebook (especially its T&Cs and relationship with the Communist Party of China) is definitely problematic. There is an obvious solution: social media aggregation where you would provide your social media login details to a third party who could access your data and display it in any way you would wish to view. Unfortunately however US courts decided in favour of Facebook in a suite brought by it against aggregator Power.com, the consequence of which has been to allow Facebook to exclude access by the aggregator though its Terms of Service. As a consequence, it is not possible for you to give a third party access to your Facebook content in order to process and display it as you prefer.

Vague and draconian legislation on "cybercrime" has made this possible and the deeper lesson is that over-criminalisation will inevitably be misused by the already powerful. I am posting this on several social networks. ;-) :-)

The Zingales and Rolnik approach to social network reform by Tyler Cowen

Facebook Gets Decisive Win Against Pseudo-Competitor Power Ventures — Facebook v. Power Ventures by Venkat Balasubramani


Wanneer is "available" nie beskikbaar nie?

Ek weet presies waarom hierdie gebeur maar ek voel dat die konsistente gebruik van available dalk vir ander kliënte van nut sal wees... Programverifikasie, enige iemand? ;-)


Google Trends haphazardly translates terms

Google Trends is a service from the search giant that allows one to view the most popular search terms, i.a. in different countries. I was accidentally viewing the top terms in Germany in two different browsers, one of which defaulted to an English and the other to a Dutch version of the site. A partial selection of terms were translated into the two languages and my initial hypothesis (that people in Germany search surprisingly often in English) was refuted. At number 23 (below) for example, the Dutch translation appears to be better (at least, more complete) than the English. It is probably worth taking reports about search terms with a pinch of Salz.

Google Trends – https://trends.google.com/trends/


FCUK: fruity computer user knowledge (Raspberry Pi meanderings)

Setting up a Raspberry Pi on my parents' new fibre connection was a project for this morning. It was purchased online from PiShop in the Vaal at about half the price of the previous package that I had ordered for a collaborator from TakeAlot. First, the delivery was two days later than expected but everything was in the package and the case is particularly nice. However, I spent more than an hour discovering and confirming that the SD card that I had ordered in the package, contained neither the operating system nor, indeed, appeared to work at all. One of the reasons this took so long was that I do not have an appropriate SD card reader etc. After this, however, I drove to the shops and got a new SD card for R89, downloaded piCore Linux and installed the image on the card.

piCore booted up super quickly and is easy to access in a "headless" environment. Actually, it is a beautiful, small (less than 40MB) operating system that really got me going very quickly and is working hard as I write this. The lesson learned is to never order the SD card with the package...

Hands-on with piCore 7.0: Tiny Core Linux for the Raspberry Pi


Where not to learn about blockchain

I have been looking at writing a short introduction to blockchain (for managers and investors) and in looking at what other people have done, I have come across some really inadequate examples. Even Wikipedia (in English) does not clearly distinguish between the blockchain and applications such as cryptocurrencies. I have also looked at the Afrikaans and Dutch entries in Wikipedia but I think the German one says it best, in the first sentence.
"Unter einer Blockchain (auch Block Chain, englisch für Blockkette) wird eine Datenbank verstanden, deren Integrität (Sicherung gegen nachträgliche Manipulation) durch Speicherung des Hashwertes des vorangehenden Datensatzes im jeweils nachfolgenden gesichert ist."
This is simple and accurate! The two items below are, in my view, examples of unnecessarily confusing attempts to explain.

What is Blockchain – Explained in simple English https://mybroadband.co.za/news/internet/200218-what-is-blockchain-explained-in-simple-english.html

Chain introductory video – https://chain.com


Electronic Soleau envelope sees the light

For about 100 years now, the French Patent & Trademark Office (INPI) has been offering the Soleau envelope service that allows one to deposit two copies of a document with the Office, individually sealed in envelopes that are stamped and perforated by INPI. One envelope is then returned to the deponent. The Office keeps their copy for five years, during which the deponent can request its return by mail and the idea of course is that this can prove the age of a document because the two envelopes can be opened, for example, in a court. Deposition itself confirms no rights, however. It simply provides a cheap way to prove authorship or prior art etc. and the current price of the service, for up to seven A4 pages, is €15.

There is now an electronic version for which INPI provides an electronic fingerprint (hash) and stores the original file (in the owner's account). This is better described at the French-language link below. Casual inspection did not reveal a public proof checking facility, something that is in fact provided by the company MaPreuve, for example. MaPreuve requires a Java application, which none of the browsers on this computer wanted to load, but this would be a really useful service. Storing the original document electronically, in my view, detracts from the value of the INPI service and I would have been happier if they had just stored the electronic fingerprint.

Set up of electronic Soleau Envelope – https://www.ipside.com/content/set-electronic-soleau-envelope
e-Soleau – https://www.inpi.fr/fr/services-et-prestations/e-soleau
MaPreuve Proof verification service – https://www.mapreuve.com/en/verifier-une-preuve.php