Posts under Tag: usenet
20 Years Ago Today The World’s Most Popular Free OS Was Born (Linix) Right on the Usenet

Linus Torvalds was really bored one evening and was looking for something to create, something that would be free that could be shared everywhere. Being an avid programer and geek extraordinaire he decided he might want to try his hand at improving the operating system mini unix or (minix), he had already seen the desktop market flooded by Microsoft Windows and Steve Jobs at Apple had created the Mac OS operating system – Linus wanted to create something anyone could use that would be cool and free, thus one night, exactly 20 years ago today Linix was born with a short but amazingly significant post to the Usenet newsgroup comp.os.minix asking, “What would you like to see most in minix?” Little did Linus know that such a simple query would lead to such an explosive out pouring of ideas creating a bubble of inovation that still continues to grow today. What began as a little hobby for a super geek, would soon become what some techno geeks might argue was the achievement of a lifetime, the creation and growth of the Linix kernel – the core and brain of the free Linux operating system that makes it go. Today Linix is made up of contributions from 1000s of other computer geeks that share Linus’s passion for computers and making them go. Some may even refer to Linus Torvalds as the father of the open source software movement because he created a culture where other coders could be open to create and share and build something great together, something they could look back on and say, “Hey we did that, and boy was that cool!” Today Linix is made up of contributions from folks everywhere, I bet Linus had no idea that one little Usenet post was going to spark the growth of one of the neatest most collaborative free software movements ever. Thanks Linus – we love you for incredible and free software :)

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IO.COM RIP – The Internet Before There Was Internet

A piece of internet history has been lost but not forgotten. IO.COM has been sold to an undisclosed third party and all of its shell,email and hosted ftp and webserv services have been transferred. To those of you scratching your head trying to figure out what this means, well let me tell you, it is a big deal. You see, before we had the internet we had BBSs or bulletin board systems. BBSs were computers that ran special software that allowed users to dial in and connect to the computer via a hard telephone line. Once connected to the BBS, users had access to a host of services we are familiar with today like email, news feeds(Usenet), webspace for websites. The BBS also allowed other users dialing in to communicate with each other. BBSs were the cornerstone of the internet as they gave birth the first online communities. IO.COM was a domain name that was owned by Steve Jackson Games and it hosted services for the Illuminati Online BBS. Steve Jackson Games was a company that created tabletop games and offered customer support through their Illuminati Online BBS. After it went online in the mid 1980′s, it soon became a flourishing online community where users would chat about all kinds of things – Illuminati Online was a staple in the early internet. But the story and the intrigue does not end there for the IO.COM BBS. The Illuminati Online BBS earned international fame among the computer underground after Steve Jackson Games was raided by the U.S. Secret Service. As it was in those days, people who did not understand technology feared those that did, giving way to the non-tech-savey computer users vs. the hacker elite. The Secret Service was after one so called hacker elite, a member of the Legion of Doom, known as Loyd Blackenship, an employ who worked for Steve Jackson games. The Secret Service had targeted Blackenship after he published a Bell article about the emergency 911 phone system in the hacker magazine Phrack and because he ran a legal BBS from his house where members discussed the hacker underground. That alone put him on the Secret Service’s watch list. During the raid agents discovered GURPS Cyberpunk that Blackenship had been working on at SJG. GURPS Cyberpunk was actually a genre toolkit for cyber themed role playing games – table top ones. After the raid the Secret Service confiscated several computers including the one running the Illuminati BBS taking it offline. They also raided Blackenship’s home. History tells us now that the Secret Service was really on a phishing expedition and did not have anything solid on Blackenship. They siezed the SJG computers because of Cyberpunk that he had been working for the company, but Cyberpunk had nothing to do with the hacker BBS Blackenship was running from his home, that was what the Secret Service was really after. SJG and the Illuminati Online BBS just got caught in the crossfire. In fact, as fate would have it Steve Jackson Games was awarded damages from the Secret Service in the 1990s for the use of what the judge called sloppy police work. The decision in the case led to some of the electronic information protections we now enjoy under the law today – it gave email and electric content the same protections under the law as mail – SJG was represented by the then new Electronic Frontier Foundation and SJG’s case proved to be a landmark case in the establishment of some of the online freedoms we enjoy today. Bye Bye IO.COM…oh how you will be missed. Hackers and non-geeks alike salute you Illuminati Online BBS!

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Bandwidth Throttling The Solution To Piracy?

Will throttling internet user’s data help stop piracy? According to Daniel Castro’s testimony to the House Judiciary Committee, it could be part of the solution to stopping online piracy. As part of his testimony he referred to a 2009 study by The Institute for Policy Innovation that states “U.S. recording industry and related industries lost over $3.5 billion to online piracy”. This study like many others makes the flawed assumption that each pirated song is a lost sale. Obviously this is not and never will be the case. Fundamentally when people spend their hard earned money on music they want to show their support to the artist to allow them to continue to create music, and despite what recording industry groups want you to believe artists are making more then ever before. The Movie industry in 2010 had it’s highest revenue dollar amount ever. How can this possibly be? Does it not fly in the face of logic?

The problem that paid content has both in the US and around the globe is not one of piracy but of a failing business model. The current pricing structures in place for both movies and music are based on a single universal price and limited physical media. If one was to buy a $15 movie in the US and a $15 movie in Russia it’s the same $15 amount correct? Not quite according to a report by the Social Science Research Council. That $15 in Russia is a much larger piece of their income and would be the equivalent of a $75 movie in the US. Many corporations are not interested in bringing  content to an affordable price for potential international customers. Instead, they’re simply trying to protect their premium clients, those in countries with the per capita income of being able to pay these inflated rates.

The solution to the “problem” of piracy is to cease seeing that as the problem and instead focus on the real issues, that of the failing business model and a re-evaluation of intellectual property law. Part of Article 1 Section 8 of the US constitution states “To promote the progress of science and useful arts, by securing for limited times to authors and inventors the exclusive right to their respective writings and discoveries;”. Limited times. The Copyright Act of 1790 was for 14 years, with option to renew for another 14 years and applied to maps, charts and books. However back then Corporations were not seen as persons under the law; now that they are these “persons” have no natural lifespan to end. So now those of us that live in the United States are left with legal entities that keep ideas under lock and key ad infinitum. This was not the intent nor letter of the law. We have let corporations become people, and people that live forever at that. We need to let these ideas have a limited time frame for the creator to have a monopoly on, we need to cease seeing corporations as persons under the law, and we need the RIAA and MPAA to take a better look at the finance sheets and figure out that they’re still making money hand over foot.

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BREIN Claims that FTD Supporters behind DDOS Attack

BREIN head Tim Kuik claims that FTD supporters are behind the DDOS attack on the BREIN website. He claims that the timing between the FTD takedown and the attack make the culprits obvious. Does it really? Certainly the timing is close but suspicions and conjecture do not equate to facts and BREIN hasn’t been all that good at making friends lately. Not only have they gone after FTD, but also the Swan website and a number of other Usenet sites recently.

DDOS attacks are not the answer however. Arnoud Engelfriet the legal council of FTD in the recent BREIN case states that “Executing DDoS attacks only strengthens the image that filesharing or downloading is a criminal activity, which does not help the cause.” He is right of course. Mixing a legitimate debate of intellectual property laws and an illegitimate attack on a website can easily and quite quickly taint the worthy topic at hand.

There is another possibility for the source of the DDOS of course, BREIN itself. With the history of their heavy handed tactics in the past would it be out of the realm of possibility that they have done this to themselves to continue to muddy the waters between reasonable debate and illegal activity? I would argue that it is not only within the realm of possibility but within the style of their playbook. To look back and find their most recent illegal activity on shutting down a service one only needs to go back to an incident in January. Where they took down sites who’s legitimacy and legality were beyond reproach even by BREIN’s standards. Either way it’s high time BREIN begins acting like the legitimate organization it claims to be.

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You Win Some You Lose Some

TorrentFreak is reporting that our favorite Netherlands anti-piracy group, BREIN, is forcing the shutdown of numerous Usenet and NZB sites. This list includes:,,,,,, and They of course managed to get some leverage with the court win over FTD (all this despite the fact that only 13 of the more then 1/2 million FTD users reported and uploaded infringing content, and even then who’s to say these anonymous persons didn’t actually work for BREIN). According to lawyer Arnoud Engelfriet

“BREIN is using the FTD verdict to threaten other sites into closing. Even though the verdict clearly said downloading is legal and ‘facilitating’ downloading is legal as well, BREIN is now saying that sites that provide NZB files are facilitating illegal downloading.”

It seems to me that BREIN is overstepping its bounds, something it is quite fond of doing. In an separate article TorrentFreak is reporting that BREIN has gone ahead and taken down the site known as Swan. Interestingly, neither the recent FTD ruling nor any other recent event has given them the legal authority to do so and the fine people that run Swan not only managed to seize back their servers but are also looking at suing BREIN. It’s about time someone hit them back. While there is certainly a debatable to be had over intellectual property a few things are painfully clear:

  1. Current intellectual property laws do not work in an environment where a single work can appear in multiple formats all of which can easily be shared across the globe in any number of ways.
  2. Being a rights holder or representative of the rights holders does not give you a free pass to do whatever you want wherever you want.
  3. Rights holders need to re-evaluate their monitization of the work product and investigate alternate means of making money.
  4. You can make money on free and can compete against free.

Perhaps it’s time the companies that supposedly represent the result these creative industries themselves get creative.

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