What is the point of using screws with a Phillips head, flathead, allen, hex, etc. instead of just having one universal screw type? [Published articles]

SSD Drives Vulnerable To Rowhammer-Like Attacks That Corrupt User Data [Published articles]

An anonymous reader writes: NAND flash memory chips, the building blocks of solid-state drives (SSDs), include what could be called "programming vulnerabilities" that can be exploited to alter stored data or shorten the SSD's lifespan. According to research published earlier this year, the programming logic powering of MLC NAND flash memory chips (the tech used for the latest generation of SSDs), is vulnerable to at least two types of attacks. The first is called "program interference," and takes place when an attacker manages to write data with a certain pattern to a target's SSD. Writing this data repeatedly and at high speeds causes errors in the SSD, which then corrupts data stored on nearby cells. This attack is similar to the infamous Rowhammer attack on RAM chips. The second attack is called "read disturb" and in this scenario, an attacker's exploit code causes the SSD to perform a large number of read operations in a very short time, which causes a phenomenon of "read disturb errors," that alters the SSD ability to read data from nearby cells, even long after the attack stops.

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Russ Allbery: On time management [Published articles]

Last December, the Guardian published a long essay by Oliver Burkeman entitled "Why time management is ruining our lives". Those who follow my book reviews know I read a lot of time management books, so of course I couldn't resist this. And, possibly surprisingly, not to disagree with it. It's an excellent essay, and well worth your time.

Burkeman starts by talking about Inbox Zero:

If all this fervour seems extreme – Inbox Zero was just a set of technical instructions for handling email, after all – this was because email had become far more than a technical problem. It functioned as a kind of infinite to-do list, to which anyone on the planet could add anything at will.

This is, as Burkeman develops in the essay, an important critique of time management techniques in general, not just Inbox Zero: perhaps you can become moderately more efficient, but what are you becoming more efficient at doing, and why does it matter? If there were a finite amount of things that you had to accomplish, with leisure the reward at the end of the fixed task list, doing those things more efficiently makes perfect sense. But this is not the case in most modern life. Instead, we live in a world governed by Parkinson's Law: "Work expands to fill the time available for its completion."

Worse, we live in a world where the typical employer takes Parkinson's Law, not as a statement on the nature of ever-expanding to-do lists, but a challenge to compress the time made available for a task to try to force the work to happen faster. Burkeman goes farther into the politics, pointing out that a cui bono analysis of time management suggests that we're all being played by capitalist employers. I wholeheartedly agree, but that's worth a separate discussion; for those who want to explore that angle, David Graeber's Debt and John Kenneth Galbraith's The Affluent Society are worth your time.

What I want to write about here is why I still read (and recommend) time management literature, and how my thinking on it has changed.

I started in the same place that most people probably do: I had a bunch of work to juggle, I felt I was making insufficient forward progress on it, and I felt my day contained a lot of slack that could be put to better use. The alluring promise of time management is that these problems can be resolved with more organization and some focus techniques. And there is a huge surge of energy that comes with adopting a new system and watching it work, since the good ones build psychological payoff into the tracking mechanism. Starting a new time management system is fun! Finishing things is fun!

I then ran into the same problem that I think most people do: after that initial surge of enthusiasm, I had lists, systems, techniques, data on where my time was going, and a far more organized intake process. But I didn't feel more comfortable with how I was spending my time, I didn't have more leisure time, and I didn't feel happier. Often the opposite: time management systems will often force you to notice all the things you want to do and how slow your progress is towards accomplishing any of them.

This is my fundamental disagreement with Getting Things Done (GTD): David Allen firmly believes that the act of recording everything that is nagging at you to be done relieves the brain of draining background processing loops and frees you to be more productive. He argues for this quite persuasively; as you can see from my review, I liked his book a great deal, and used his system for some time. But, at least for me, this does not work. Instead, having a complete list of goals towards which I am making slow or no progress is profoundly discouraging and depressing. The process of maintaining and dwelling on that list while watching it constantly grow was awful, quite a bit worse psychologically than having no time management system at all.

Mark Forster is the time management author who speaks the best to me, and one of the points he makes is that time management is the wrong framing. You're not going to somehow generate more time, and you're usually not managing minutes and seconds. A better framing is task management, or commitment management: the goal of the system is to manage what you mentally commit to accomplishing, usually by restricting that list to something far shorter than you would come up with otherwise. How, in other words, to limit your focus to a small enough set of goals that you can make meaningful progress instead of thrashing.

That, for me, is now the merit and appeal of time (or task) management systems: how do I sort through all the incoming noise, distractions, requests, desires, and compelling ideas that life throws at me and figure out which of them are worth investing time in? I also benefit from structuring that process for my peculiar psychology, in which backlogs I have to look at regularly are actively dangerous for my mental well-being. Left unchecked, I can turn even the most enjoyable hobby into an obligation and then into a source of guilt for not meeting the (entirely artificial) terms of the obligation I created, without even intending to.

And here I think it has a purpose, but it's not the purpose that the time management industry is selling. If you think of time management as a way to get more things done and get more out of each moment, you're going to be disappointed (and you're probably also being taken advantage of by the people who benefit from unsustainable effort without real, unstructured leisure time). I practice Inbox Zero, but the point wasn't to be more efficient at processing my email. The point was to avoid the (for me) psychologically damaging backlog of messages while acting on the knowledge that 99% of email should go immediately into the trash with no further action. Email is an endless incoming stream of potential obligations or requests for my time (even just to read a longer message) that I should normallly reject. I also take the time to notice patterns of email that I never care about and then shut off the source or write filters to delete that email for me. I can then reserve my email time for moments of human connection, directly relevant information, or very interesting projects, and spend the time on those messages without guilt (or at least much less guilt) about ignoring everything else.

Prioritization is extremely difficult, particularly once you realize that true prioritization is not about first and later, but about soon or never. The point of prioritization is not to choose what to do first, it's to choose the 5% of things that you going to do at all, convince yourself to be mentally okay with never doing the other 95% (and not lying to yourself about how there will be some future point when you'll magically have more time), and vigorously defend your focus and effort for that 5%. And, hopefully, wholeheartedly enjoy working on those things, without guilt or nagging that there's something else you should be doing instead.

I still fail at this all the time. But I'm better than I used to be.

For me, that mental shift was by far the hardest part. But once you've made that shift, I do think the time management world has a lot of tools and techniques to help you make more informed choices about the 5%, and to help you overcome procrastination and loss of focus on your real goals.

Those real goals should include true unstructured leisure and "because I want to" projects. And hopefully, if you're in a financial position to do it, include working less on what other people want you to do and more on the things that delight you. Or at least making a well-informed strategic choice (for the sake of money or some other concrete and constantly re-evaluated reason) to sacrifice your personal goals for some temporary external ones.

The Rickmobile (Rick and Morty) is coming to Bier Station! June 3 [Published articles]

The south pole of Jupiter [Published articles]

From Nasa's Juno probe:

This image shows Jupiter’s south pole, as seen by NASA’s Juno spacecraft from an altitude of 32,000 miles (52,000 kilometers). The oval features are cyclones, up to 600 miles (1,000 kilometers) in diameter. Multiple images taken with the JunoCam instrument on three separate orbits were combined to show all areas in daylight, enhanced color, and stereographic projection.

Everything you need to know about mobile Amber Alerts [Published articles]

At 2:38 PM on May 19th, 2017, my phone buzzed, emitting a high-pitched tone. So did the phone of my colleague Roberto Baldwin, who was standing with me inside a Starbucks near our office. Actually, all of the phones in that Starbucks buzzed at the sa...

China Reaches the Moon Snapping Incredible, Never-Before-Seen High-Definition Images [Published articles]

Doomed Mars lander wasn't equipped for supersonic conditions [Published articles]

Last October, the European Space Agency (ESA) lost contact with the ExoMars Schiaparelli lander as it descended to Mars' surface. A few days later, the NASA Mars Reconnaissance Orbiter snapped a picture of Schiaparelli's landing site and discovered w...

Neil Gaiman agrees to read entire Cheesecake Factory menu, with a catch [Published articles]

Neil Gaiman has just agreed to do a dramatic reading of the Cheesecake Factory menu, which is nearly the size of a Bible. But there's a catch – the Coraline author will only do the reading if $500,000 has been raised for a charity of his choice, which happens to be the United Nations Refugee Agency.

It all started with a tweet from comedian and author Sara Benincasa:

"Dear @neilhimself: for $500K to the charity of your choice would you read the Cheesecake Factory menu in its entirety onstage pls advise."

To which Gaiman replied a few hours later:

I have said Yes. If she makes it happen, for charity, I will do this thing.

According to Los Angeles Times:

Benincasa told Eater that her tweet was inspired in part by watching the television adaptation of one of Gaiman's most famous books.

“Last week I watched an episode of the sublime TV adaptation of ‘American Gods,’ went on a goddamn elegant date to Cheesecake, woke up, drank coffee, and went into some kind of inspiration blackout. When I came to, I discovered I'd asked Neil if he'd read the entire Cheesecake Factory menu onstage in exchange for a $500,000 donation to a charity of his choice.”

Benincasa then set up a fundraising campaign on the charity crowdfunding site Crowdrise

"If we hit $500K, Neil has kindly agreed to do a live reading of the greatest restaurant menu of all time. It's about 8000 pages, last time I checked," Benincasa wrote on the site. "Have you heard Neil's voice? Mellifluous, I tell you."

So if you want to hear all about the Glamburgers, Skinnylicious victuals, cheesecakes galore, and the millions of other Factory menu items read in Gaiman's "mellifluous" voice, you can chip in at Crowdrise to make it happen.

Image: ActuaLitté

Latest view of Jupiter from the Juno spacecraft [4000x4000] [Published articles]

Random Obsessions [Published articles]

I take the view that "open-faced sandwiches" are not sandwiches, but all other physical objects are.

ISS Solar Transit [Published articles]

I guess it's also the right setting for pictures of the Moon at night.

Survivorship Bias [Published articles]

They say you can't argue with results, but what kind of defeatist attitude is that? If you stick with it, you can argue with ANYTHING.

Hottest Editors [Published articles]

Elon Musk finally blocked me from the internal Tesla repository because I wouldn't stop sending pull requests for my code supporting steering via vim keybindings.

Know thy enemy: how to prioritize and communicate risks - CRE life lessons [Published articles]

By Matt Brown, Customer Reliability Engineer

Editor’s note: We’ve spent a lot of time in CRE Life Lessons talking about how to identify and mitigate risks in your system. In this post, we’re going to talk about how to effectively communicate and stack-rank those risks.

When a Google Cloud customer engages with Customer Reliability Engineering (CRE), one of the first things we do is an Application Reliability Review (ARR). First, we try to understand your application’s goals: what it provides to users and the associated service level objectives (SLOs) (or we help you create SLOs if you do not have any!). Second, we evaluate your application and operations to identify risks that threaten your ability to reach your SLOs. For each identified risk, we provide a recommendation on how to eliminate or mitigate it based on our experiences at Google.

The number of risks identified for each application varies greatly depending on the maturity of your application and team and target level for reliability or performance. But whether we identify five risks or 50, two fundamental facts remain true: Some risks are worse than others, and you have a finite amount of engineering time to address them. You need a process to communicate the relative importance of the risks and to provide guidance on which risks should be addressed first. This appears easy, but beware! The human brain is notoriously unreliable at comparing and evaluating risks.

This post explains how we developed a method for analyzing risks during an ARR, allowing us to present our customers with a clear, ranked list of recommendations, explain why one risk is ranked above another, and describe the impact a risk may have on the application’s SLO target. By the end of this post, you’ll understand how to apply this to your own application, even without going through a CRE engagement.

Take one: the risk matrix

Each risk has many properties that can be used to evaluate its relative importance. In discussions internally and with customers, two properties in particular stand out as most relevant:
  • The likelihood of the risk occurring in a given time period.
  • The impact that would be felt if the risk materializes.
We began by defining three levels for each property, which are represented in the following 3x3 table.

Example table with representative risks for each category: The row headers represent likelihood and column headers represent impact.

Catastrophic
Damaging
Minimal
Frequent
Overload results in slow or dropped requests during the peak hour each day.
The wrong server is turned off and requests are dropped.
Restarts for weekly upgrades drop in-progress requests (i.e., no lame ducking).
Common
A bad release takes the entire service down. Rollback is not tested.
Users report an outage before monitoring and alerting notifies the operator.
A daylight savings bug drops requests.
Rare
There is a physical failure in the hosting location that requires complete restoration from a backup or disaster recovery plan.
Overload results in a cascading failure. Manual intervention is required to halt or fix the issue.
A leap year bug causes all servers to restart and drop requests.
We tested this approach with a couple of customers by bucketing the risks we had identified into the table. This is not a novel approach. We very quickly realized that our terminology and format are the same as that used in a risk matrix, a commonly used management tool in the risk assessment field. This realization seemed to confirm that we were on the right track, and had created something that customers and their management could easily understand.

We were right: Our customers told us that the table of risks was a good overview and was easy to grasp. However, we struggled to explain the relative importance of entries in the list based on the cells in the table:
  • The distribution of risks across the cells was extremely uneven. Most risks ended up in the “common, damaging” cell, which doesn’t help to explain relative importance of the items within each cell.
  • Assigning a risk to a cell (and its subsequent position in the list of risks) is subjective and depends on the reliability target of the application. For example, the “frequent, catastrophic” example of dropping traffic for a few minutes during a release is catastrophic at four nines, but less so at two nines.
  • Ordering the cells into a ranking is not straightforward. Is it more important to handle a “rare, catastrophic” risk, or a “frequent, minimal” risk? The answer is not clear from the names or definitions of the categories alone. Further, the desired order can change from matrix to matrix depending on the number of items in each cell.

Risk expressed as expected losses

As we showed in the previous section, the traditional risk matrix does a poor job of explaining the relative importance of each risk. However, the risk assessment field offers another useful model: using impact and likelihood to calculate the expected loss from a risk. Expressed as a numeric quantity, this expected loss value is great way to explain the relative importance of our list of risks.

How do we convert qualitative concepts of impact and likelihood to quantified values that we can use to calculate expected loss? Consider our earlier posts on availability and SLOs, specifically, the concepts of Mean Time Between Failure (MTBF), Mean Time To Recover (MTTR), and error budget. The MTBF of a risk provides a measure of likelihood (i.e., how long it takes for the risk to cause a failure), the MTTR provides a measure of impact (i.e., how long we expect the failure to last before recovering), and the error budget is the expected number of downtime minutes per year that you're willing to allow (a.k.a. accepted loss).

Now with this system, when we work through an ARR and catalog risks, we use our experience and judgement to estimate each risk’s MTBF (counted in days) and the subsequent MTTR (counted in minutes out of SLO). Using these two values, we estimate the expected loss in minutes for each risk over a fixed period of time, and generate the desired ranking.

We found that calculating expected losses over a year is a useful timeframe for risk-ranking, and developed a three-colour traffic light system to provide high-level guidance and quick visual feedback on the magnitude of each risk vs. the error budget:
  • Red: This risk is unacceptable, as it falls above the acceptable error budget for a single risk (we typically use 25%), and therefore, can have a major impact on your reliability in a single event.
  • Amber: This risk should not be acceptable, as it’s a major consumer of your error budget and therefore, needs to be addressed. You may be able to accept some amber risks by addressing some less urgent (green) risks to buy back budget.
  • Green: This is an acceptable risk. It's not a major consumer of your error budget, and in aggregate, does not cause your application to exceed the error budget. You don't have to address green risks, but may wish to do so to give yourself more budget to cover unexpected risks, or to accept amber risks that are hard to mitigate or eliminate.
Based on the three-colour traffic light system, the following table demonstrates how we rank and colour the risks given a 3-nines availability target. The risks are a combination of those in the original matrix and some additional examples to help illustrate the amber category. You can refer to the spreadsheet linked at the end of this post to see the precise MTTR and MTBF numbers that underlie this table, along with additional examples of amber risks.
Risk
Bad minutes/year
Overload results in slow or dropped requests during the peak hour each day.
3559
A bad release takes the entire service down. Rollback is not tested.
507
Users report an outage before monitoring and alerting notifies the operator.
395
There is a physical failure in the hosting location that requires complete restoration from a backup or disaster recovery plan.
242
The wrong server is turned off and requests are dropped.
213
Overload results in a cascading failure. Manual intervention is required to halt or fix the issue.
150
Operator accidentally deletes database; restore from backup is required
129
Unnoticed growth in usage triggers overload; service collapses.
125
A configuration mishap reduces capacity; causing overload and dropped requests
122
A new release breaks a small set of requests; not detected for a day.
119
Operator is slow to debug and root cause bug due to noisy alerting
76
A daylight savings bug drops requests.
71
Restarts for weekly upgrades drop in-progress requests (i.e., no lame ducking).
52
A leap year bug causes all servers to restart and drop requests.
16

Other Considerations

The ranked list of risks is extremely useful for communicating the findings of an ARR and conveying the relative magnitude of the risks compared to each other. We recommend that you use the list only for this purpose. Do not prioritize your engineering work directly based on the list. Instead, use the expected loss values as inputs to your overall business planning process, taking into consideration remediation and opportunity costs to prioritize work.

Also, don’t be tricked into thinking that because you have concrete numbers for the expected loss, that they are precise! They’re only as good as the estimates derived from MTBF and MTTR values. In the best case, MTBF and MTTR are averages from observed data; more commonly, they will be estimates based purely on intuition and experience. To minimize introducing errors into the final ranking, we recommend estimating MTBF and MTTR values likely to be within an order of magnitude of correct, rather than use specific, potentially inaccurate values.

Somewhat in contrast to the advice just mentioned, we find it useful to introduce additional granularity into the calculation of MTBF and MTTR values, for more accurate estimates. First, we split MTTR into two components:
  • Mean Time To Detect (MTTD): The time between when the risk first manifests and when the issue is brought to the attention of someone (or something) capable of remediating it.
  • Mean Time To Repair (MTTR): Redefined to mean the time between when the issue is brought to the attention of someone capable of remediating it and when it is actually remediated.
This granularity is driven by the realization that, often, the time to notice an issue and the time to fix it differ significantly. It’s easier to assess and ensure estimates are consistent across risks with these figures separately specified.

Second, in addition to considering MTTD, we also factor in what proportion of the users are affected by a risk (e.g., in a sharded system, shards can fail at a given rate and incur downtime before a successful failover succeeds, but each failure only impacts a proportion of the users). Taking these two optimizations into account, our overall formula for calculating the expected annual loss from a risk is:

(MTTD + MTTR) * (365.25 / MTBF) * percent of affected users

To implement this method for your own application, here is a spreadsheet template that you can copy and populate with your own data: https://goo.gl/bnsPj7

Summary

When analyzing the reliability of an application, it is easy to generate a large list of potential risks that must be prioritized for remediation. We have demonstrated how the MTBF and MTTR values of each risk can be used to develop a prioritized list of risks based on the expected impact on the annual error budget.

We here in CRE have found this method to be extremely helpful. In addition, customers can use the expected loss figure as an input to more comprehensive risk assessments, or cost/benefit calculations of future engineering work. We hope you find it helpful too!

Nardole has some of the best one-liners in Doctor Who. [Published articles]

In "Extremis":

Bill: Nardole, are you secretly a bad ass?

Nardole: Nothing secret about it babydoll.

Awesome! Or in "Mysterio":

Doctor: Where did you get the robes?

Nardole: 12th century Constantinople. I ruled firmly, but wisely.

What others have I missed? He is rapidly taking over the #1 spot for favorite companion on my internal list.

submitted by /u/BananaFrappe to r/gallifrey
[link] [comments]

Zack Snyder Steps Down From 'Justice League' to Deal with Family Tragedy [Published articles]

Why motorcyclists crash [Published articles]

The Motorcycle Safety Foundation recently funded a Virginia Tech study on why motorcyclists crash. Hundreds of cameras were placed on bikes, recording a wide variety of riders every move.

We drop our bikes more than we'd like to admit.

The folks at Revzilla read the 20 page report and summed it up nicely.

Via Revzilla:

We complain all the time about other people on the road trying to kill us, especially cars pulling into our paths. The VTTI study partially backs that up. Of the 99 crashes and near-crashes involving another vehicle, the three categories of other vehicles crossing the rider’s path add up to 19.

Here’s the surprise, however. What’s the most common scenario? Riders hitting (or nearly hitting) another vehicle from behind. There were 35 of those incidents. Are we really almost twice as likely to plow into a stopped car in front of us as to have someone pull into our path? Or should we write this off as the result of a small sample size?

Maybe there are clues in the risk section. Researchers tried to break down rider behavior in crashes and near-crash incidents into two categories: aggressive riding or rider inattention or lack of skills. The cameras and other data helped determine, for example, if the rider ran the red light because of inattention or aggressive riding.

The study found that aggressive riding increased risk by a factor of 18 while inattention or lack of skill increased it by a factor of nine. Combine the two, and odds of an incident increased by 30.

Now here's one of the less dramatic findings, but an interesting one, just the same. It seems we drop our bikes a lot. Or at least the riders in the study did. More than half the crashes were incidents some riders wouldn't define as a crash — not a dramatic collision but an incident defined as a case where the "vehicle falls coincident with low or no speed (even if in gear)" not caused by another outside factor. Rider inattention or poor execution are to blame. The study finds "These low-speed 'crashes' appear to be relatively typical among everyday riding," but they are incidents that would never be included in a different kind of study of motorcycle crashes. The cameras, however, capture it all, even our mundane but embarrassing moments.

Supreme Court Ends Texas’ Grip On Patent Cases [Published articles]

Today the Supreme Court issued a decision that will have a massive impact on patent troll litigation. In TC Heartland v. Kraft Foods, the court ruled that patent owners can sue corporate defendants only in districts where the defendant is incorporated or has committed acts of infringement and has a regular and established place of business. This means that patent trolls can no longer drag companies to distant and inconvenient forums that favor patent owners but have little connection to the dispute. Most significantly, it will be much harder for trolls to sue in the Eastern District of Texas.

For more than ten years, patent troll litigation has clustered in the Eastern District of Texas (EDTX). Patent trolls began to flock there when a judge created local patent rules that were perceived as friendly to patent owners. The court required discovery to start almost right away and did very little to limit costs (which were borne much more heavily by operating companies because they have more documents). Cases also tended not to be decided by summary judgment and went to trial more quickly.

These changes led to a stunning rise in patent trolling in EDTX. In 1999, only 14 patent cases were filed in the district. By 2003, the number of filings had grown to 55. By 2015, it had exploded to over 2500 patent suits, mostly filed by trolls. Patent litigation grew so much in EDTX that it became part of the local economy. In addition to providing work for the local lawyers, it generated business for the hotels, restaurants, and printers in towns like Marshall and Tyler.

Although the TC Heartland case will have a big impact on EDTX, the case involved a suit filed in the District of Delaware and the legal question was one of statutory interpretation. Prior to 1990, the Supreme Court had held that in patent cases, the statute found at 28 U.S.C. § 1400 controlled where a patent case could be filed. However, in 1990 in a case called VE Holding, the Federal Circuit held that a small technical amendment to another venue statute—28 U.S.C. § 1391—effectively overruled that line of cases. VE Holding meant that companies that sold products nationwide can be sued in any federal court in the country on charges of patent infringement, regardless of how tenuous the connection to that court. Today’s decision overrules VE Holding and restores venue law to how it was: corporate patent defendants can only be sued where they are incorporated or where they allegedly infringe the patent and have a regular and established place of business.

Together with Public Knowledge, we filed an amicus brief urging the Supreme Court to hear this case, and once it did, another brief urging it to overrule VE Holding. We explained that venue law is concerned with fairness and that forum shopping in patent cases has had very unfair results, especially in EDTX. While the Supreme Court reached the result we hoped for, the court did not discuss these policy issues (it also showed little interest in the policy debate during the oral argument in the case). The court approached the case as a pure question of statutory interpretation and ruled 8-0 that the more specific statute, 28 U.S.C. § 1400, controls where a patent case can be filed.

While today’s decision is a big blow for patent trolls, it is not a panacea. Patent trolls with weak cases can, of course, still file elsewhere. The ruling will likely lead to a big growth in patent litigation in the District of Delaware where many companies are incorporated. And it does not address the root cause of patent trolling: the thousands of overbroad and vague software patents that the Patent Office issues every year. We will still need to fight for broader patent reform and defend good decisions like the Supreme Court’s 2014 ruling in Alice v CLS Bank.

Related Cases: 

Supreme Court shuts down location loophole for patent suits [Published articles]

Patent trolls have had it pretty easy lately, especially in East Texas. A 2016 ruling by the US Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit allowed patent suits anywhere a defendant company's products are sold. The Eastern District of Texas has become a...

Elena 'valhalla' Grandi: Modern XMPP Server [Published articles]

Modern XMPP Server

I've published a new HOWTO on my website http://www.trueelena.org/computers/howto/modern_xmpp_server.html:

http://www.enricozini.org/blog/2017/debian/modern-and-secure-instant-messaging/ already wrote about the Why (and the What, Who and When), so I'll just quote his conclusion and move on to the How.

I now have an XMPP setup which has all the features of the recent fancy chat systems, and on top of that it runs, client and server, on Free Software, which can be audited, it is federated and I can self-host my own server in my own VPS if I want to, with packages supported in Debian.


How



I've decided to install https://prosody.im/, mostly because it was recommended by the RTC QuickStart Guide http://rtcquickstart.org/; I've heard that similar results can be reached with https://www.ejabberd.im/ and other servers.

I'm also targeting https://www.debian.org/ stable (+ backports); as I write this is jessie; if there are significant differences I will update this article when I will upgrade my server to stretch. Right now, this means that I'm using prosody 0.9 (and that's probably also the version that will be available in stretch).

Installation and prerequisites



You will need to enable the https://backports.debian.org/ repository and then install the packages prosody and prosody-modules.

You also need to setup some TLS certificates (I used Let's Encrypt https://letsencrypt.org/); and make them readable by the prosody user; you can see Chapter 12 of the RTC QuickStart Guide http://rtcquickstart.org/guide/multi/xmpp-server-prosody.html for more details.

On your firewall, you'll need to open the following TCP ports:


  • 5222 (client2server)

  • 5269 (server2server)

  • 5280 (default http port for prosody)

  • 5281 (default https port for prosody)



The latter two are needed to enable some services provided via http(s), including rich media transfers.

With just a handful of users, I didn't bother to configure LDAP or anything else, but just created users manually via:

prosodyctl adduser alice@example.org

In-band registration is disabled by default (and I've left it that way, to prevent my server from being used to send spim https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Messaging_spam).

prosody configuration



You can then start configuring prosody by editing /etc/prosody/prosody.cfg.lua and changing a few values from the distribution defaults.

First of all, enforce the use of encryption and certificate checking both for client2server and server2server communications with:


c2s_require_encryption = true
s2s_secure_auth = true



and then, sadly, add to the whitelist any server that you want to talk to and doesn't support the above:


s2s_insecure_domains = { "gmail.com" }


virtualhosts



For each virtualhost you want to configure, create a file /etc/prosody/conf.avail/chat.example.org.cfg.lua with contents like the following:


VirtualHost "chat.example.org"
enabled = true
ssl = {
key = "/etc/ssl/private/example.org-key.pem";
certificate = "/etc/ssl/public/example.org.pem";
}


For the domains where you also want to enable MUCs, add the follwing lines:


Component "conference.chat.example.org" "muc"
restrict_room_creation = "local"


the "local" configures prosody so that only local users are allowed to create new rooms (but then everybody can join them, if the room administrator allows it): this may help reduce unwanted usages of your server by random people.

You can also add the following line to enable rich media transfers via http uploads (XEP-0363):


Component "upload.chat.example.org" "http_upload"

The defaults are pretty sane, but see https://modules.prosody.im/mod_http_upload.html for details on what knobs you can configure for this module

Don't forget to enable the virtualhost by linking the file inside /etc/prosody/conf.d/.

additional modules



Most of the other interesting XEPs are enabled by loading additional modules inside /etc/prosody/prosody.cfg.lua (under modules_enabled); to enable mod_something just add a line like:


"something";

Most of these come from the prosody-modules package (and thus from https://modules.prosody.im/ ) and some may require changing when prosody 0.10 will be available; when this is the case it is mentioned below.



  • mod_carbons (XEP-0280)
    To keep conversations syncronized while using multiple devices at the same time.

    This will be included by default in prosody 0.10.



  • mod_privacy + mod_blocking (XEP-0191)
    To allow user-controlled blocking of users, including as an anti-spim measure.

    In prosody 0.10 these two modules will be replaced by mod_privacy.



  • mod_smacks (XEP-0198)
    Allow clients to resume a disconnected session before a customizable timeout and prevent message loss.



  • mod_mam (XEP-0313)
    Archive messages on the server for a limited period of time (default 1 week) and allow clients to retrieve them; this is required to syncronize message history between multiple clients.

    With prosody 0.9 only an in-memory storage backend is available, which may make this module problematic on servers with many users. prosody 0.10 will fix this by adding support for an SQL backed storage with archiving capabilities.



  • mod_throttle_presence + mod_filter_chatstates (XEP-0352)
    Filter out presence updates and chat states when the client announces (via Client State Indication) that the user isn't looking. This is useful to reduce power and bandwidth usage for "useless" traffic.




@Gruppo Linux Como @LIFO

An AI invented a bunch of new paint colors that are hilariously wrong [Published articles]

Americans Are Paying $38 to Collect $1 of Student Debt. Student loan defaults are a bonanza for the debt collection industry. [Published articles]

Americans No Longer Have To Register Non-Commercial Drones With the FAA [Published articles]

A federal appeals court on Friday struck down a federal rule that required owners of recreational drones and other model aircraft to register the devices with the Federal Aviation Administration. The FAA had announced the rule in 2015 in response to growing reports of drones flying near manned aircraft and airports. Drones have become increasingly popular with hobbyists and more than 550,000 unmanned aircraft were registered within the first year it was required. From a report: The court ruled that the FAA's drone registration rules, which have been in place since 2015, were in violation of a law passed by Congress in 2012. That law, the FAA Modernization and Reform Act, prohibited the FAA from passing any rules on the operation of model aircraft -- in other words, rules that restrict how non-commercial hobbyist drone operators fly. Now, if a person buys a new drone to fly for fun, they no longer have to register that aircraft with the FAA. But if flying for commercial purposes, drone buyers still need to register. The lawsuit was won by John Taylor, a model aircraft enthusiast, who brought the case against the FAA in January 2016. Since first opening the FAA's registration system in December 2015, more than 820,000 people have registered to fly drones.

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Only recording of Hitler's normal voice [Published articles]

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=ClR9tcpKZec

In movies and television, Hitler's speaking voice is usually depicted as a dialed-back version of his public speaking performances: even in private he's either shrieking or muttering. The reality, captured only once in a secret recording made in Finland, is unnerving. It's deep and commanding, yet with the same maniacal rhythms. You almost forget that he's admitting, in 1942, that he underestimated Soviet productive capability and would have ignored anyone who told him.

Rental Car [Published articles]

Technically, both cars are haunted, but the murder ghosts can't stand listening to the broken GPS for more than a few minutes.

TIL "Growing the beard" is the polar opposite of "Jumping the shark" and describes the moment a TV Series became awesome. [Published articles]

NASA decodes source of strange flashes seen on Earth from space [Published articles]

Secret lab, golden temple, or something else?

Since June 2015 the Deep Space Climate Observatory (DSCOVR) satellite has been floating about a million miles away between the Earth and the Sun. On that satellite, which was developed by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration in the US, NASA's Earth Polychromatic Imaging Camera (EPIC) instrument has been snapping pictures of our planet about once every hour. In some of those shots, strange flashes have been appearing all over the planet. Researchers now think they know what they are.

.. Continue Reading NASA decodes source of strange flashes seen on Earth from space

Category: Space

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Castor and Pollux [2048 × 1161] [Published articles]

All 886 episodes of Mr. Rogers is currently being streamed consecutively on Twitch as a PBS fundraiser. [Published articles]

My favorite shot I took on opening night for Happily Ever After! [Published articles]

MP3 Is Not Dead, It's Finally Free [Published articles]

The commentary around IIS Fraunhofer and Technicolor terminating their MP3 licensing program for certain MP3 related patents and software has been amusing. While some are interpreting this development as the demise of the MP3 format, others are cheering about MP3s finally being free. Developer and commentator Marco Arment tries to prevail sense: MP3 is no less alive now than it was last month or will be next year -- the last known MP3 patents have simply expired. So while there's a debate to be had -- in a moment -- about whether MP3 should still be used today, Fraunhofer's announcement has nothing to do with that, and is simply the ending of its patent-licensing program (because the patents have all expired) and a suggestion that we move to a newer, still-patented format. MP3 is supported by everything, everywhere, and is now patent-free. There has never been another audio format as widely supported as MP3, it's good enough for almost anything, and now, over twenty years since it took the world by storm, it's finally free.

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Full list of Audible's 2 for 1 sale [Published articles]

Here's the full list of fantasy books in the 2 for 1 sale which ends May 22 at 11:59 PST.


Covers for the books

Title Author Narrator Book # Series Released Rating # Ratings
Skinwalker Faith Hunter Khristine Hvam Book 1: Jane Yellowrock 4/13/10 4.10 4,956
The Dragons of Dorcastle Jack Campbell MacLeod Andrews Book 1: Pillars of Reality 12/2/14 4.3 6,010
The Name of the Wind Patrick Rothfuss Nick Podehl Book 1: KingKiller Chronicles 5/15/09 4.7 39,439
Wise Man's Fear Patrick Rothfuss Nick Podehl Book 2: KingKiller Chronicles 3/3/11 4.8 32,214
Gunmetal Magic Ilona Andrews Renée Raudman Book 5.5 Kate Daniels 7/31/12 4.4 2,058
Day Shift Charlaine Harris Susan Bennett Book 2: Midnight, Texas 5/5/15 4.5 1,517
Clean Sweep Ilona Andrews Renée Raudman Book 1: Innkeeper Chronicles 3/19/14 4.3 2,873
Dead Ever After Charlaine Harris Johanna Parker Book 13: Sookie Stackhouse 5/7/13 4.0 3,966
My Life as a White Trash Zombie Diana Rowland Allison McLemore Book 1: White Trash Zombie 7/3/12 4.4 3,897
Halfway to the Grave Jeaniene Frost Tavia Gilbert Book 1: Night Huntress 3/31/10 4.3 7,156
Just One Damned Thing After Another Jodi Taylor Zara Ramm Book 1: Chronicles of St. Mary's 4/1/14 4.3 4,844
College Arcane John Conroe James Patrick Cronin Book 8: Demon Accords 10/27/15 4.8 1,469
Monster Hunter International Larry Correia Oliver Wyman Book 1: Monster Hunter 3/15/11 4.4 13,463
Cursed Benedict Jacka Gildart Jackson Book 2: Alex Verus 1/6/14 4.5 2,158
Corpies Drew Hayes Kyle McCarley Book 1: Super Powereds Spinoff 5/24/16 4.1 1,879
Dragons of Autumn Twilight Weis & Hickman Paul Boehmer Book 1: Dragonlance Chronicles 1/8/13 4.2 2,182
Dragons of Winter Night Weis & Hickman Paul Boehmer Book 2: Dragonlance Chronicles 1/7/13 4.5 1,240
Lycan Fallout Mark Tufo Sean Runnette Book 1: Lycan Fallout 7/12/13 4.5 2,442
Theft of Swords1 Michael J. Sullivan Tim Gerard Reynolds Book 1: Riyria Revelations 3/16/12 4.6 14,494
Kizumonogatari Nisioisin Multiple Book 1: Wound Tale 5/25/16 4.6 407
The Lost Gate Orson Scott Card Multiple Book 1: Mithermages 1/4/11 4.2 7,404
Lies of Locke Lamora Scott Lynch Michael Page Book 1: Gentleman Bastards 5/13/09 4.5 9,582
Red Seas Under Red Skies Scott Lynch Michael Page Book 2: Gentleman Bastards 9/21/09 4.6 6,002
Ex-Heroes Peter Clines Snyder & Hvam Book 1: Ex-Heroes 5/10/11 4.1 7,086
Homeland R. A. Salvatore Victor Bevine Book 1: Legend of Drizzt 3/26/13 4.5 7,127
Wizard's First Rule Terry Goodkind Sam Tsoutsouvas Book 1: Sword of Truth 10/15/08 4.4 8,519
Stone of Tears Terry Goodkind Jim Bond Book 2: Sword of Truth 5/13/08 4.2 5,179
Assassin's Apprentice Robin Hobb Paul Boehmer Book 1: Farseer Trilogy 3/2/10 4.2 5,370
Nine Princes in Amber Roger Zelazny Alessandro Juliani Book 1: Chronicles of Amber 7/31/12 4.1 2,852
Armageddon's Children Terry Brooks Dick Hill Book 1: Genesis of Shannara 5/6/08 4.2 1,406

1 In full disclosure this book is mine.

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Voten.co, a Real-Time Reddit Alternative Launches Public Beta [Published articles]

Internet Atlas maps the physical internet to enhance security [Published articles]

NSE (nmap) script to detect the vulnerability ms17-010 used by WannaCry [Published articles]

M81 M82 LRGB [Published articles]

Doctor Who Just Did One of Its Most Daring Episodes in Ages [Published articles]

By its very nature, Doctor Who is a formulaic show. You’ve got the Doctor, you’ve got a companion, they go on an adventure, there’s a scary monster, they overcome it , and are back in the TARDIS in time to do it all over again. But its latest episode did something to twist that: it gave some major consequences to the…

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The Reign of the $100 Graphing Calculator Required By Every US Math Class Is Finally Ending [Published articles]

If you took a math class at some point in the US, there is likely a bulky $100 calculator gathering dust somewhere in your closet. Fast forward to today, and the Texas Instruments 84 -- or the TI 84-Plus, or the TI-89 or any of the other even more expensive hardware variants -- is quickly losing relevance. Engadget adds: Thanks to a new deal, they'll soon get a free option. Starting this spring, pupils in 14 US states will be able to use the TI-like Desmos online calculator during standardized testing run by the Smarter Balanced consortium. "We think students shouldn't have to buy this old, underpowered device anymore," Desmos CEO Eli Luberoff said. The Desmos calculator will be embedded directly into the assessments, meaning students will have access during tests with no need for an external device. It'll also be available to students in grades 6 through 8 and high school throughout the year. The calculator is free to use, and the company makes money by charging organizations to use it, according to Bloomberg.

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The Tron: Legacy Daft Punk Soundtrack Goes Perfectly With the Trippy Effects of Star Trek: The Motion Picture [Published articles]

A soundtrack can often make or break a film. Daft Punk’s work on Tron: Legacy helped make that sequel mostly watchable, but it turns out that score works even better for Star Trek: The Motion Picture, as Patrick Collins discovered when he brilliantly mashed up both films.

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New study reveals early Earth was almost entirely submerged underwater [Published articles]

In a clinical first, researchers demonstrate that transplantation of pancreatic islet cells within a tissue-engineered platform can successfully engraft and achieve insulin independence in type 1 diabetes. [Published articles]

Microsoft Issues WanaCrypt Patch for Windows 8, XP [Published articles]

Microsoft Corp. today took the unusual step of issuing security updates to address flaws in older, unsupported versions of Windows — including Windows XP and Windows 8. The move is a bid to slow the spread of the WanaCrypt ransomware strain that infected tens of thousands of Windows computers virtually overnight this week.

A map tracking the global spread of the Wana ransomware strain. Image: Malwaretech.com.

A map tracking the global spread of the Wana ransomware strain. Image: Malwaretech.com.

On Friday, May 12, countless organizations around the world began fending off attacks from a ransomware strain variously known as WannaCrypt, WanaDecrypt and Wanna.Cry. Ransomware encrypts a victim’s documents, images, music and other files unless the victim pays for a key to unlock them.

It quickly became apparent that Wanna was spreading with the help of a file-sharing vulnerability in Windows. Microsoft issued a patch to fix this flaw back in March 2017, but organizations running older, unsupported versions of Windows (such as Windows XP) were unable to apply the update because Microsoft no longer supplies security patches for those versions of Windows.

The software giant today made an exception to that policy after it became clear that many organizations hit hardest by Wanna were those still running older, unsupported versions of Windows.

“Seeing businesses and individuals affected by cyberattacks, such as the ones reported today, was painful,” wrote Phillip Misner, principal security group manager at the Microsoft Security Response Center. “Microsoft worked throughout the day to ensure we understood the attack and were taking all possible actions to protect our customers.”

The update to address the file-sharing bug that Wanna is using to spread is now available for Windows XP, Windows 8, and Windows Server 2003 via the links at the bottom of this advisory.

On Friday, at least 16 hospitals in the United Kingdom were forced to divert emergency patients after computer systems there were infected with Wanna. According to multiple stories in the British media, approximately 90 percent of care facilities in the U.K.’s National Health Service are still using Windows XP – a 16-year-old operating system.

According to a tweet from Jakub Kroustek, a malware researcher with security firm Avast, the company’s software has detected more than 100,000 instances of the Wana ransomware.

For advice on how to harden your systems against ransomware, please see the tips in this post.

Keylogger in HP / Conexant HD Audio Audio Driver [Published articles]

A swiss security auditing company discovered a keylogger in HPs audio driver.

 

Blog post:

https://www.modzero.ch/modlog/archives/2017/05/11/en_keylogger_in_hewlett-packard_audio_driver/index.html

 

Security Advisory incl. model and OS list:

https://www.modzero.ch/advisories/MZ-17-01-Conexant-Keylogger.txt

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Complicated Simplicity: Vernor Vinge’s A Fire Upon the Deep [Published articles]

It’s not that I think A Fire Upon the Deep is perfect, it’s just that it’s got so much in it. There are lots of books that have fascinating universes, and there are lots of first contact novels, and there are lots of stories with alien civilizations and human civilizations and masses of history. The thing that makes A Fire Upon the Deep so great is that is has all these things and more, and it’s integrated into one thrilling story. It has the playful excitement and scope of pulp adventure together with the level of characterisation of a really good literary work, and lots of the best characters are aliens.

It really is the book that has everything. Galaxy spanning civilizations! Thousands of kinds of aliens! Low bandwidth speculation across lightyears! Low tech development of a medieval planet! Female point of view characters! A universe where computation and FTL travel are physically different in different places! An ancient evil from before the dawn of time and a quest to defeat it! A librarian, a hero, two intelligent pot plants, a brother and sister lost among aliens, and a curious mind split between four bodies. And the stakes keep going up and up.

Vinge makes this complicated novel work by starting with the Blight, the threat at first to a lab full of human scientists at the edge of the Transcend, and then to the whole galaxy. We start close up and small with a freighter full of children escaping, and the threat of the Blight is always relentlessly there, throughout the rest of the book. Whenever a lesser writer would have a man come through the door with a gun, Vinge has the Blight destroy something big—or in one case, some aliens reacting to the Blight destroy something big. The universe is very complicated, and there are braided stories ratcheting along, but the shape of the story is very simple—the swelling threat of the Blight, the treasure at the bottom of the Beyond, the chase and pursuit.

He also keeps it focused down on the characters—Johanna and Jeffri Olnsdot on the planet of the Tines, the Tine Pilgrim with his four bodies, Ravna, the librarian from Sjandra Kei who is the only human working at Relay, and Pham Nuwen, the trader from the Slow Zone with pieces of a god in his head. And because there are two strands of story they drive each other forward—you never leave one strand without wanting more of it, and Vinge keeps up this balance all the way to the climax. Vinge sets us close in, and everything is so fascinating right from the start that it’s easy to get to really care.

This particular kind of fascination is almost unique to science fiction. There’s a universe and the way it works is really weird, and he keeps handing out pieces of it and you keep fitting it together. There are two real stories here, the children on the Tines World, and Ravna and Pham’s rescue attempt. The first has the tines themselves, with their minds and personalities spread across bodies. It also has the development of technology from “dataset”—a child’s computer with a portable web full of information. And there’s the way Samnorsk is this wonderful language of science and opportunity for the tines, and you can get whiplash seeing how it’s a backwater dead end language in the wider universe. In the second story, you have the wider universe with the zones. And there’s the low bandwidth “net of a million lies” where civilizations trade information that is sometimes incomprehensible. There’s the automation that degrades as you move downward. There are the skroderiders, and the tuskleg aliens and the jovians and the Powers that live in the Transcend. All the details build up and draw you in, so that by the end of the book when you come out gasping for breath it’s almost as if you have really been there.

But yet, this is a fight of good against evil, gods and lurking evil, it begins with the metaphor of the mummy’s tomb and ends with a transcendent victory. There’s something of the joy of fantasy in it too. Pham and the skroderiders are canny traders, Vrimini.org wants to make a profit, only Ravna the librarian wants an adventure, a daring rescue, to save the universe. One quest, Blueshell agrees to, but never another! But this is an epic, after all, with the scale and scope and moral compass of an epic.

This is the first of the Vinge’s Zones of Thought series, which continues in A Deepness in the Sky and The Children of the Sky. A Fire Upon the Deep finishes really well, but of course there’s plenty of space for more things to happen.

This article originally appeared in September 2011 as part of our Jo Walton Reads column.
For a limited time, get a free ebook of A Fire Upon the Deep by joining the Tor.com eBook Club! Offer expires May 15th at 11:59 pm, US & Canada only.

Jo Walton is a science fiction and fantasy writer. She’s published two poetry collections and nine novels, most recently Among Others, and if you liked this post you will like it. She reads a lot, and blogs about it here regularly. She comes from Wales but lives in Montreal where the food and books are more varied.

UGC 1810: Wildly Interacting Galaxy from Hubble [Published articles]

What's happening to this spiral galaxy? What's happening to this spiral galaxy?


Robin Hobb Prize Pack Sweepstakes! [Published articles]

Robin Hobb's Fitz and the Fool trilogy

The third book in Robin Hobb’s Fitz and the Fool trilogy, Assassin’s Fate, is available now from Del Rey—and to celebrate, we want to send you a set of all nine Fitz books! One winner will receive paperback copies of Assassin’s ApprenticeRoyal AssassinAssassin’s QuestFool’s ErrandGolden FoolFool’s FateFool’s Assassin, and Fool’s Quest, and a hardcover copy of Assassin’s Fate!

More than twenty years ago, the first epic fantasy novel featuring FitzChivalry Farseer and his mysterious, often maddening friend the Fool struck like a bolt of brilliant lightning. Now New York Times bestselling author Robin Hobb brings to a momentous close the third trilogy featuring these beloved characters in a novel of unsurpassed artistry that is sure to endure as one of the great masterworks of the genre.

Fitz’s young daughter, Bee, has been kidnapped by the Servants, a secret society whose members not only dream of possible futures but use their prophecies to add to their wealth and influence. Bee plays a crucial part in these dreams—but just what part remains uncertain.

As Bee is dragged by her sadistic captors across half the world, Fitz and the Fool, believing her dead, embark on a mission of revenge that will take them to the distant island where the Servants reside—a place the Fool once called home and later called prison. It was a hell the Fool escaped, maimed and blinded, swearing never to return.

For all his injuries, however, the Fool is not as helpless as he seems. He is a dreamer too, able to shape the future. And though Fitz is no longer the peerless assassin of his youth, he remains a man to be reckoned with—deadly with blades and poison, and adept in Farseer magic. And their goal is simple: to make sure not a single Servant survives their scourge.

Comment in the post to enter!

NO PURCHASE NECESSARY TO ENTER OR WIN. A purchase does not improve your chances of winning. Sweepstakes open to legal residents of 50 United States and D.C., and Canada (excluding Quebec). To enter, comment on this post beginning at 2:30 PM Eastern Time (ET) on May 10th. Sweepstakes ends at 12:00 PM ET on May 14th. Void outside the United States and Canada and where prohibited by law. Please see full details and official rules here. Sponsor: Tor.com, 175 Fifth Ave., New York, NY 10010.

Tesla's Highly-Anticipated Solar Roofs Go Up For Pre-Order Today [Published articles]

Kristine Lofgren writes: Get ready: Tesla's ground-breaking Solar Roof tiles are available for order in the U.S. starting today. In typical fashion, CEO Elon Musk announced via Twitter that the anticipated tech would be available to order this afternoon with installation happening later this year. Tesla's tiles look like traditional roof tiles but they soak up all that delicious sunlight in order to power your home. According to the company, the tiles will be more affordable than typical roofing and can be paired with their Powerwall battery to power a home completely using solar energy.

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The Real Magic of Moebius’ Edena [Published articles]

“Science fiction is great,” the French artist Jean Giraud—better known as Moebius—wrote in a reflection on The Airtight Garage, the comic from the late 1970s often considered his masterwork, “because it literally opens the doors of time and space.” He might as well have been talking about the revelatory feeling of viewing his art. It certainly sums up my feelings upon first reading his masterpiece, Edena.

In a 1996 lecture to Mexican art students, Moebius drew connections between illustration and all the other arts. “There must be a visual rhythm created by the placement of your text,” Moebius informed the students. “The rhythm of your plot should be reflected in your visual cadence and the way you compress or expand time. Like a filmmaker, you must be very careful in how you cast your characters and in how you direct them.” He then compared drawing to composing music. Finally, towards the end, he provided a simple but profound insight into reading not only his own work, but that of comics and visual mediums as a whole: “Colour,” he said, “is a language.”

It was a language Moebius would become fluent in. He was born in May, 1938—a month before the first issue of Superman—and, within a few decades, he became one of the greatest artists of the 20th century. He first began calling himself Moebius in the 1960s while drawing strips influenced by Mad Magazine; the pseudonym, a riff on the mathematical concept of the Möbius strip, stuck a decade later, becoming better-known than his birth name. Moebius’ work is so rich because of how much it draws from the other arts: his compositions read like music, his colours like lyrical language. His art was at once alien and human, echoing everything from the Art Nouveau of Mucha to the wordless novels of Lynd Ward to the sci-fi of his contemporaries, yet seemed a revelation, a revolution. In 1977, he created Arzach, a wordless comic featuring the adventures of a warrior on a white winged creature; later, he compared the enigmatic quality of the piece to the inscrutable monolith in 2001: A Space Odyssey. Arzach’s silhouette on his white pterosaur resembles that of Nausicaä—the protagonist of Hayao Miyazaki’s 1984 film, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind—on her signature glider. This was no coincidence; Miyazaki himself revealed in an interview that he “directed Nausicaä under Moebius’ influence,” and, in 2004, both artists drew artwork honouring the other: Miyazaki a soft image of Arzach, Moebius a haunting fey illustration of the Valley of the Wind’s princess.

Moebius went so far as to name his daughter Nausicaä, a tribute to their friendship and mutual influence. With Alejandro Jodorowsky as writer and Moebius as artist, he created in The Incal a vast, circular narrative that seemed groundbreaking for its time. What made Moebius’ work grand was the same thing that animates great fantasy and sci-fi: that the beauty and terror of a world that does not as yet exist, or may never, can make the real world more beautiful and terrible, that the rich eldritch colours and contours of a far-flung fantastic realm make our own reality’s colours richer. A mirror from the future, or a shimmering glass from Faerie, sometimes shows the real present just as well, or, ironically, better than the ones we may look into now.

Despite his fame in France and with renowned directors like Miyazaki, however, Moebius still, arguably, remains too-little-known in America. “You see it everywhere,” Ridley Scott said in 2010 of the French artist’s influence, adding that “it runs through so much you can’t get away from it,” but this is precisely where Moebius unfortunately lies for all too many people: beneath the surface. This is partly cultural; in France and Belgium, comics, or bandes dessinées (literally, drawn strips), tend to be held to a much higher esteem, even being classified as “the ninth art” alongside cinema, photography, and many others, and the Western stigma that labels cartoons as a form for children holds less true in Japan. Moebius’ relative obscurity in America is partly because comics, themselves, have only recently begun to attract the wider critical attention they deserve. And this is truer, still, of one of his most underrated, yet most ambitious, solo works: the lush, extraordinary cycle of stories, The Gardens of Edena, which freely blends fantasy and sci-fi, and which was released as a whole in a gorgeous new edition last December. Reading the stories for me was a revelation: here was a luxuriant grand narrative that, like an operatic Midsummer Night’s Dream on the starry deck of a spaceship, asked where the nebulous road of dreams ends and the road of non-dreams begins, all while telling a byzantine tale of love, politics, the body, and evil. To me, Moebius’ Edena cycle may well be his masterpiece—and one I find even more interesting due to its intriguing explorations of gender.

Moebius began the series as, of all things, a car advertisement. Citroën, a French car manufacturer, had asked him to draw a comic advertising their vehicles in 1983. Initially, he wanted to decline, then rethought it. “Citroën,” he wrote in story notes for the comic that would begin Edena, “was not like other car makers. They are a little like the poets of popular automobiles.” He decided to create a “mythical car” to reflect the manufacturer, and, as he sat down to draw, the story suddenly flooded into him. In half an hour, he drew forty pages of layouts, “almost in a creative trance.” Such fluid inspiration was rare for him; Edena, from the very start, was something special.

Moebius named the story “Upon a Star,” and it introduced the saga’s protagonists, two interplanetary mechanics named Stel and Atan. He forced himself, in his own words, “to draw ‘Upon a Star’ in a style as pure and simple as possible”; the panels used the ligne claire style famously championed by the Belgian artist Hergé in his Tintin series, which involves straight, strong lining with no hatching, and which often features cartoonish figures set against realistic, highly rendered backgrounds. (This, along with Moebius’ soft but salient application of shadows, gives many of his images, in Edena and elsewhere, a solarised, flat-yet-full feel.) Citroën so loved the comic that they released it as a limited-edition book—now a rare collectors’ item—and Moebius began work on the full story, guided by the lantern of that vision he had had when he first began to outline the cycle, yet very uncertain, as he later wrote, of how the story would evolve.

In this vision of the future, humans use “molecular synthesizers” to digitally create food. They routinely have organ transplants to extend their lifespan and take “hormonode,” a drug that prevents the creation of any sexual features, including body hair; the very idea that someone could be distinctly male or female in any sense is considered “primitive” or even “blasphemy.” Humans are, as Atan says, “ageless, sexless, shapeless.” In the first few chapters, Stel and Atan have a loving, if sexless—literally, in two senses—relationship, a kind of sweet platonic partnership. From the earliest panels, Atan’s features are slightly more feminine than Stel’s, but both, like all humans seem to, go by “he” and “sir” as (ironically patriarchal) gender-neutral pronouns. However, when the two crash-land on Edena—a lush landscape echoing the similarly named biblical garden—they are forced to begin eating food from nature and stop taking hormonode, which they no longer have a supply of. If the universe outside of Edena that Stel and Atan come from represents science, the fey landscape of Edena is closer to fantasy; it is populated by fairies and other mythic beings, all brimming with a quiet magic, a world more akin to what J. R. R. Tolkien simply called “Faerie” in his landmark 1947 essay on the fairy-story as a form.

After a while, it becomes clear that Stel and Atan’s features are changing: Stel becomes distinctly masculine, while Atan—soon to be renamed Atana—has grown prominent breasts and an hourglass curve. They have become gender archetypes, the Adam and Eve of a new world—and when Stel, suddenly filled with a lust he has never before felt, tries to make a move on Atana, she hits him and flees. (As with the religious version, knowledge of their newfound bodies leads to a kind of metaphorical expulsion and pain—and, fittingly, this all starts by Stel and Atan eating apples.) The story then transforms into a dreamlike quest paralleling their stories, as they slowly come to understand their identities, and realise that they love each other—but their changed bodies, Atana’s in particular, cause them to be treated as dangerous abominations to the other humans they soon come across in Edena, and, in particular, a threat to a strange malevolent being that begins to invade their dreams, who becomes the cycle’s primary antagonist. This prominence of the body was intentional. Moebius wrote that he wanted to show what happens when one switches from “artificial to natural food,” which partly reflects his influence by Guy-Claude Burger, whose “instincto therapy” diet of instinct-based raw food—primarily fruits, like in Edena—Moebius was experimenting with. But it goes beyond this. In Edena, sex and gender become anarchic, powerful, dangerous—a combination that resonated with me as a trans reader.

Stel and Atana learn that their identities have layers. Atan was always Atana, her true self suppressed by the homogenising drug hormonode, and the same is true of Stel. (The order of events is ironic; hormone therapy, which already sounds a little like “hormonode,” often helps bring out the features of our gender.) To be sure, the characters are not technically trans, as their newfound bodies correspond to their gender identities; ironically, it’s as if they transition into being cisgender. Yet their confused memories of their previous gender-neutrality and greater sense of joy in their new bodies adds a subtle queer context I loved. I hadn’t expected these explorations of gender by Moebius, and when I realised what was happening, I smiled.

I suddenly couldn’t stop reading. I forgot I was on my bed, a book sprawled open before me; I was in Edena’s dreamscape. When I looked at my phone again, hours had disappeared and midnight had arrived, soft as shinigami footsteps, and for a moment I felt disoriented, like a scuba diver returning from the drone of their breaths to the chaotic noise of the surface. While Atana was not trans in the sense I was, her story had captured me, all the same: the power and perils she had gained as a result of her gender, the delightful subversiveness of being gender-non-conforming in a world where everyone was expected to be the opposite. It was a queer tale—but stealthily. It seemed so familiar, on some level, this way that your true identity is always there, but hidden away in the night of the self, buried under the yellowing grass, the ornate mausoleums, of a life lived for so long in denial. Once we stop holding back who we are, we can begin to bloom. I wanted to finish the book instead of teaching the next day. But I also didn’t want to get to the end, in the strange way we sometimes love a book so much that we feel slightly afraid to finish it.

Edena has its uneven moments. Stel and Atana often seem to embody gender stereotypes, for instance. However, this may be intentional. Their gendered behavior is extreme when they first realise that their bodies have changed; when you first begin to transition, you may likewise go wild, presenting more femme or masculine than you might later decide to, simply because it all feels so wonderful and new to finally be able to walk through the world like that. And it’s difficult to feel that Stel and Atana are solely stereotypes the longer we venture through Edena with them, as the world around them is so lush and diverse that they begin to seem distinctive just by proxy. At parts of the narrative, Atana indeed becomes a prototypical damsel in distress, captured by a villain and pursued by the heroic Stel, yet Atana is also frequently depicted as a tough, fearsome woman in her own right. Moebius invests these archetypal figures with something unique, with a psychology at once real and fantastical. Unlike Moebius’ episodic, postmodern The Airtight Garage or his more frenetic collaborations with Jodorowsky—The Incal and Madwoman of the Sacred HeartEdena generally moves at a gentle pace, allowing his enchanting, and, at times unnerving, world to unfold.

Edena is an overshadowed masterpiece, a surreal, timeless tale. If colour is indeed a language, this is one of its lovely, too-long-forgotten poems.

Gabrielle Bellot is a staff writer for Literary Hub. Her work has appeared in The New Yorker, The Atlantic, The New York Times, Tin House, Guernica, Slate, New York Magazine’s The Cut, Electric Literature, HuffPost, and elsewhere. Find her at gabriellebellot.com.

The FCC Pretends to Support Net Neutrality and Privacy While Moving to Gut Both [Published articles]

FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has proposed a plan to eliminate net neutrality and privacy for broadband subscribers. Of course, those protections are tremendously popular, so Chairman Pai and his allies have been forced to pay lip service to preserving them in “some form.”  How do we know it’s just lip service? Because the plan Pai is pushing will destroy the legal foundation for net neutrality. That’s right: if Pai succeeds, the FCC won’t have the legal authority to preserve net neutrality in just about any form. And if he’s read the case law, he knows it.

Let’s break it down.

The FCC’s Proposal Makes It Impossible to Enforce Core Net Neutrality Requirements

Under the Telecommunications Act of 1996, a service can be either a “telecommunications service,” like telephone service, that lets the subscriber choose the content they receive and send without interference from the service provider, or it can be an “information service,” like cable television or the old Prodigy service, that curates and selects what content channels will be available to subscribers. The 1996 law provided that “telecommunications services” are governed by “Title II” of the Communications Act of 1934, which includes nondiscrimination requirements. “Information services” are not subject to Title II’s requirements.

Under current law, the FCC can put either label on broadband Internet service – but that choice has consequences. For years, the FCC incorrectly classified broadband access as an “information service,” and when it tried to impose even a weak version of net neutrality protections the courts struck them down. Essentially, the D.C. Circuit court explained [PDF] that it would be inconsistent for the FCC to exempt broadband from Title II’s nondiscrimination requirements by classifying it as an information service, but then impose those requirements anyway.

The legal mandate was clear: if it wanted meaningful open Internet rules to pass judicial scrutiny, the FCC had to reclassify broadband service under Title II. It was also clear to neutral observers that reclassification just made sense. Broadband looks a lot more like a “telecommunications service” than an “information service.” It entails delivering information of the subscriber’s choosing, not information curated or altered by the provider.

It took an Internet uprising to persuade the FCC that reclassification made practical and legal sense. But in the end we succeeded: in 2015, at the end of a lengthy rulemaking process, the FCC reclassified broadband as a Title II telecommunications service and issued net neutrality rules on that basis. Resting at last on a proper legal foundation, those rules finally passed judicial scrutiny [PDF].

But now, FCC Chairman Ajit Pai has proposed to reverse that decision and put broadband back under the regime for “information services” – the same regime that we already know won’t support real net neutrality rules. Abandoning Title II means the end of meaningful, enforceable net neutrality protections, paving the way for companies like Comcast or Time Warner Cable to slice up your Internet experience into favored, disfavored, and “premium” content.

Title II Is Not Overly Burdensome, Thanks to Forbearance

While we are on the subject of the legal basis for net neutrality, let’s talk about the rest of Title II. Net neutrality opponents complain that Title II involves a host of regulations that don’t make sense for the Internet. This is a red herring. The FCC has used a process called “forbearance” – binding limits on its power to use parts of Title II – to ensure that Title II is applied narrowly and as needed to address harms to net neutrality and privacy. So when critics of the FCC’s decision to reclassify tell horror stories about the potential excesses of Title II, keep in mind that those stories are typically based on powers that the FCC has expressly disavowed, like the ability to set prices for service.

What is more, Title II offers more regulatory limits than the alternative of treating broadband as an information service, at least when it comes to net neutrality. Where Title II grants specific, clear, and bounded powers that can protect net neutrality, theories that do not rely on Title II have to infer powers that aren’t clearly granted to the FCC. As proponents of limited regulation, these theories concern us. The proper way to protect neutrality is not to expand FCC discretion by stretching the general provisions of the Telecommunications Act (an approach already rejected in court), but to use a limited subset of the clear authorities laid out in Title II.

The FTC Cannot Adequately Protect the Privacy of Internet Subscribers

Reclassifying broadband as an information service not subject to Title II also creates yet another mess for subscriber privacy. The FCC crafted good rules for Internet privacy, but Congress just rejected them. But it left in place the FCC’s underlying authority to protect privacy under Title II, which leaves privacy in limbo. Abandoning Title II for broadband altogether would mean that the FCC no longer has much of a role to play in protecting broadband privacy – and it’s not clear who will fill the gap.

Some have looked to the FTC to take up the mantle, but just last year AT&T persuaded a federal appeals court that, as a company that also owned a telephone business, the FTC had no power over any aspect of AT&T. That precedent covers the entire west coast and leaves millions of Americans without recourse for privacy violations by their Internet service provider. And there’s no doubt that AT&T and others will try to extend that precedent across the country.

Even without this precedent, the FTC’s enforcement authority here targets deceptive trade practices. The agency will only take action if a company promises one thing and delivers another.  If the legalese in a company’s privacy policy explains how it is free to use and sell your private information, and it follows that policy, the FTC can’t help you.

Tell the FCC to Keep Title II and Not Undermine Net Neutrality

The FCC is now accepting comments on its plan. Make yourself heard via DearFCC.org.

Related Cases: 

NASA TV Coverage Set for 200th Spacewalk at International Space Station [Published articles]

NASA astronauts Peggy Whitson and Flight Engineer Jack Fischer will perform a landmark 200th spacewalk at the International Space Station Friday, May 12. Live coverage will begin at 6:30 a.m. EDT on NASA Television and the agency’s website.

Scientists stunned by new findings about salt's effects on body [Published articles]

Conventional wisdom: If you eat a lot of salt, you will get thirsty to dilute the sodium level in your blood. The excess salt will be excreted in your urine.

But a new study of Russian cosmonauts is challenging this long-held belief. When the cosmonauts ate more salt, the became less thirsty. And their appetite increased - they had to eat 25 percent more to maintain their weight.

From the New York Times:

The crew members were increasing production of glucocorticoid hormones, which influence both metabolism and immune function.

To get further insight, [Dr. Jens Titze, now a kidney specialist at Vanderbilt University Medical Center and the Interdisciplinary Center for Clinical Research in Erlangen, Germany] began a study of mice in the laboratory. Sure enough, the more salt he added to the animals’ diet, the less water they drank. And he saw why.

The animals were getting water — but not by drinking it. The increased levels of glucocorticoid hormones broke down fat and muscle in their own bodies. This freed up water for the body to use.

But that process requires energy, Dr. Titze also found, which is why the mice ate 25 percent more food on a high-salt diet. The hormones also may be a cause of the strange long-term fluctuations in urine volume.

Scientists knew that a starving body will burn its own fat and muscle for sustenance. But the realization that something similar happens on a salty diet has come as a revelation.

https://youtu.be/aJEzl31zL-I

Bedtime reading tips—including where to get free ebooks to share with your kids [Published articles]

By Ben Murray

Bedtime stories aren’t just a chance for you to bond with your kids.

Child psychologists also point to the cognitive benefits for young people. Your children will strengthen their emotional connections to books, grow up more literate, and fare better in school.

Reading to your kids — at the same time night after night — can also help them establish healthy sleep routines.

This guide to bedtime stories will include some of the most cherished ones for children today.

Among the titles are printed books you can request from your local library or order from web-based retailers — as well as some beloved favorites available online.

But first, here are some tips for effective bedtime story reading.

Tips for parents

No child is too young for a bedtime story. Many experts encourage parents to begin reading to their children while they are newborns, and continue throughout their childhoods. The 2016 Time to Read campaign from BookTrust in the U.K. noted that bedtime reading can benefit children as old as 11 years of age.

Regardless of how old your child is, age-appropriate reading material is crucial. Readings for toddlers and preschoolers should utilize a fairly straightforward vocabulary, and also include pictures or illustrations.

As your child advances into elementary school and begins learning to read, books with chapters may be more effective.

Here are a few more tips for parents who plan to read bedtime stories to their kids:

  • Read slowly. This is especially important for young listeners and children who have not yet learned to read. If the story contains words the child doesn’t know, take a minute during the initial readings and explain the definitions.
  • Involve your child in the reading  — be as interactive as possible.  Ask them questions about the story and the characters. Swap out characters’ names for your child’s name and allow them to be part of the story. Draw parallels between your child’s life and the world of the story in order to drive home important messages.
  • Be dramatic. Emphasize emotional moments by reading them in an appropriate tone, and use distinct voices for different characters. This will enhance your child’s personal involvement in the story, and enhance their imagination.
  • Clearly define the characters’ roles. To help your child develop a sense of right and wrong, you should make sure they understand the difference(s) between the heroes and the villains of each story.
  • Read each story more than once. Your child probably won’t grasp everything about a story during the first bedtime session, so read it more than once — if possible, on consecutive nights.
  • Don’t read the same story too often. Your child will most likely favor certain stories over others, but avoid reading the same volume night after night for long periods of time. After a few readings, their imaginative connection to the story will begin to diminish. If your child insists on hearing an old favorite for the twentieth time, then suggest reading something new that night and then switching back to the preferred story the next night.
  • Don’t be afraid to improvise. Rather than reading from a book, you can make up a story that allows your child to be more involved — and even dictate the narrative a bit. Parenting.com offers a list of effective “story starters” for bedtime ad-libbers.

The best bedtime stories available online

Bedtime stories have evolved over the years, and today, parents across the country are turning to websites and video channels to find suitable reading material for their children.

The following list includes dozens of bedtime tales you can find online; some are offered in a text-only format, while others are presented in an animated format. Like the previous list, this one is ranked by age of the reading audience. A link to the current web page is included with each entry.

Beginning readers (birth to age 3)

  • Small Bird’s Adventure by Wesley van Eden, Nick Mulgrew and Jennifer Jacobs: Small bird flees his page but later returns to his owner, known as “Giant.”
  • Clever Pig by Joshua Morgan, Nathalie Koenig and Lee-Ann Knowles: Clever Pig searches for his carrot snacks before bedtime in this fun story with adorable barnyard illustrations.
  • Kitten’s First Full Moon by Kevin Henkes: This video adapted from a 2004 Caldecott Medal Winner features adorable characters and striking pencil-shade illustrations.
  • Londi the Dreaming Girl by Lauren Holliday and Nathalie Koenig: Londi, a spacy little girl, ponders the mysteries of the universe on her way to fetch water in this imaginative tale of friendship and family.
  • The Best Thing Ever by Melissa Fagan, Lauren Nel and Stefania Origgi: A resourceful young boy named Muzi determined to build the greatest thing the world has ever seen is at the heart of this charming illustrated story.
  • The Princess and the Pea by Hans Christian Andersen: This easy-to-read online version of the classic Danish fairy tale is geared toward exceptionally young listeners.
  • The Ugly Duckling by Hans Christian Andersen: Another H.C. Andersen favorite, this fairy tale follows a young ‘duckling’ who is tormented by his companions until he makes a startling discovery. Andersen’s uplifting story inspires self-confidence in kids of all ages.
  • Little Sock and the Tiny Creatures by Lili Probart, Jon Keevy and Chani Coetzee: Household critters help Little Socks return to the laundry basket after he’s separated from the other dirty clothes.
  • The Owl and the Lion: Lion has been bullying the other jungle animals for too long, and Owl decides to stand up to him in this fun story with a message of kindness and tolerance. You and your kids can follow along with subtitles and electronic narration.
  • The Giant Turnip: Gorgeous watercolor illustrations highlight this tale of a farmer who strives to grow the biggest turnip ever and his family’s efforts to pull the enormous vegetable out of the ground.
  • Nighty Night Circus: This lively, textless animated video follows a group of animals as they prepare for bed. The clip comes from Fox & Sheep, a popular nighttime app for kids and parents.

Intermediate Readers (Ages 4 to 6)

  • Escape at Bedtime by Robert Louis Stevenson: Children leave their bed and discover a magical world in their backyard garden in this beautiful poem from Robert Louis Stevenson.
  • The Three Golden Apples by Nathaniel Hawthorne: Inspired by classic Greek mythology, this kid-friendly version of the Hercules story follows the heroic strongman as he rescues three magical apples from the garden of Hesperides.
  • The Three Little Pigs: This animated retelling of a children’s classic follows three pigs determined to build houses of their own and the mean-spirited wolf who attempts to foil their plans.
    Riquet with the Tuft by Charles Perrault: Taken from a 17th century tale by the French storytelling master, this story of a homely-yet-witty young man still resonates with children today, thanks to its uplifting message and memorable characters.
  • Aladdin and the Magic Lamp: The most famous of tales from the classic Arabian Nights collection, this story follows a young beggar whose luck changes for better and worse after rubbing a magic lamp and meeting a genie.
  • Pied Piper of Hamelin: The good people of Hamelin turn to a mysterious flutist to solve their infestation problem in this animated rendition of the iconic fairy tale.
    Little Red Riding Hood: The classic tale of survival and trickery comes to life in this kid-friendly animated version, in which the titular girl outwits a hungry wolf on the way to her grandmother’s house.
  • The Moon and the Cap by Noni: This illustrated tale with universal appeal follows a young boy who attempts to retrieve his missing cap and finds it in the unlikeliest of places.
  • Searching for the Spirit of Spring: Inspired by an African folk tale, this illustrated story charms young readers with its hopeful message of kindness and generosity.
  • The Fisherman and His Wife by the Brothers Grimm: A talking fish spells trouble for a greedy fisherman and his equally conniving spouse in this timeless fairy tale from the Brothers Grimm.
  • Down the Memory Lane with Nash by Uma Bala Devarakonda: Young Nash and his dog Toby learn about his grandmother’s childhood in this lovely tale of family and tradition.
  • The Elephant in the Room by Sam Wilson: Striking visuals drive this imaginative story of young Lindi and her best friend, an enormous elephant that may or may not be real.
  • Shelley Duvall’s Bedtime Stories: Charming audiences since it debuted in 1992, this Showtime series features classic children’s stories presented by actress Shelley Long. Dozens of full-length episodes are available on DailyMotion.
  • When I Grow Up by Michele Fry, Simone van der Spuy and Jennifer Jacobs: Eye-catching illustrations and an inspiring theme propel this story of a young girl whose career aspirations include becoming an astronaut, a doctor and a winning soccer player.
  • The Nestlings by Arthur Scott Bailey: The brave Jolly Robin is forced to leave his nest for the first time in this heartwarming tale of survival and love. The online version features a few original illustrations from the original publication, which first appeared in 1917.

Experienced readers (ages seven and older)

  • A Book of Nonsense by Edward Lear: Introduce your kids to the mad brilliance of Edward Lear with this poetry collection that features absurdist verses and imaginative drawings by the author himself.
  • East of the Sun and West of the Moon: Featuring original illustrations, this rendition of a classic Norwegian folk tale transports kids to a world of talking bears, troll princesses and magical apples.
    The Town Mouse and the Country Mouse by Aesop: This colorful retelling of the classic fable follows two mice one city dwelling, the other not so much as they experience what life is like for the other.
  • Dreamlands: a Bedtime Book by Stephan Smith: This colorfully animated bedtime story whisks young viewers to a magical realm where flowers are as tall as skyscrapers and even the oranges need to sleep.
  • Graça’s Dream by Melissa Fagan: A heartwarming story of tolerance and perseverance, this tale follows a woman named Graça as she attempts to bring literacy to her small Mozambican village.
    The Stones of Plouvenic by Katharine Pyle: Adapted from a French folk tale, this playful story teaches children that the most valuable treasure can often be found in the least likely of places.
  • The Tale of Peter Rabbit by Beatrix Potter: This online retelling of the classic critter tale from 1902 features original illustrations by Beatrix Potter.
    The White Stone Canoe by Hamilton Wright Mabie, Edward Everett Hale and William Byron Forbush: This haunting tale for kids 7 and up follows a young Native American chief who searches for his lost love in the spiritual afterlife.
  • Children’s Bedtime Stories by Gordon Dioxide: This collection of 20 fantastical tales come from the creative mind of Gordon Dioxide, who has also produced read-along videos for his stories.
    Wildlife in a City Pond by Ashish Kothari: Featuring original illustrations by Sangeetha Kadur, this eco-minded tale follows a young boy as he explores the flora and fauna found in the park near his home.
  • The Dragon’s Eggs by Jade Matre: This kid-friendly fantasy follows brave little Luca as he combs an abandoned castle for dragon’s eggs and learns a valuable lesson about preservation in the process.
    Island of the Nine Whirlpools by Edith Nesbit: Adapted from a story by celebrated children’s author Edith Nesbit, this fairy tale has it all: wicked witches, mystical castles and a dashing hero rescuing a kidnapped princess.

The best bedtime stories available in print

Next, let’s look at some of the most popular bedtime story books available only in print. The books are listed in order of appropriate reading audience, beginning with the youngest. Each entry features a link to that title’s most popular Goodreads review page.

Beginning readers (birth to age three)

  • Big Fat Hen by Keith Baker: Designed for readers up to age three, Big Fat Hen features colorful illustrations and a memorable nursery rhyme narrative that helps children learn to count.
    The Everything Book by Denise Fleming: This comprehensive favorite teaches young listeners about shapes, colors, seasons and other basic concepts. The Everything Book is geared toward kids between one and four years of age.
  • Chicka Chicka Boom Boom by Bill Martin Jr. and John Archambault: This illustrated tale from 1989 offers a fun, high-spirited way for kids to learn the letters of the alphabet. Caldecott honoree Lois Ehlert provided the vivid illustrations.
  • Otto Goes to Bed by Todd Parr: Colorful, oddball illustrations and fun verses highlight this story of a young dog who must go to bed, whether he wants to or not. This title is geared toward infants and toddlers.
  • Pajama Time! by Sandra Boynton: Children will love the brightly colored illustrations and playful rhymes found in this quirky classic, while parents will appreciate the positive message that bedtime is important — and fun.
  • More More More Said the Baby by Vera Williams: This Caldecott Honor Book chronicles a snuggly day in the life of three toddlers. The easy prose, vibrant illustrations and diversity-friendly message make More More a perfect read for any of preschool age or younger.
  • Guess How Much I Love You by Sam McBratney and Anita Jeram: This heartwarming tale explores the bond between Big Nutbrown Hare and his son, Little Nutbrown Hare. The book — which celebrated its 20th anniversary in 2015 — was followed by four sequels.
  • Are You My Mother? By P.D. Eastman: A beloved bedtime choice since it first appeared in 1960, this illustrated story follows a baby bird as he searches for his mother and meets a handful of other animals along the way.
  • Good Night, Gorilla by Peggy Rathmann: It’s bedtime for all of the animals at the zoo, but one sneaky primate has decided to tag along as the night watchman makes his rounds. Easy verses and playful illustrations highlight make Good Night, Gorilla a great choice for toddlers and preschoolers.
  • Goodnight Moon by Margaret Wise Brown: Considered one of the greatest bedtime stories of all time, this classic boasts a lovely narrative and iconic illustrations by Clement Hurd. Goodnight Moon celebrates the 70th anniversary of its original publication in 2017; a three-dimensional rendition is also available on YouTube.
  • The Very Hungry Caterpillar by Eric Carle: First published in 1969, this beloved tale features striking collage-style illustrations and finger-sized cutouts that allow children to physically participate in the story. If your kids enjoy this one, check out the other titles from author and illustrator Eric Carle; his 50-year career includes a bibliography of more than 70 titles.
  • One Fish, Two Fish, Red Fish, Blue Fish by Dr. Seuss: Clever rhymes and memorable illustrations highlight this beginner’s book from Dr. Seuss, which has entertained young kids for nearly 50 years. This title is ideal for teaching kids the basics of colors and counting.
  • Corduroy by Don Freeman: Corduroy features a lovable teddy bear searching for a missing button after his residence — a popular toy store — has closed for the night. Vibrant illustrations and a positive message have endeared young readers to this book since its original publication in 1968.
  • Where’s Spot by Eric Hill: This fun, flip-back classic about an inquisitive canine and his critter pals has been a bedtime favorite since it first appeared in 1980. Spot was also featured in a series of animated shows that appeared on the BBC between 1987 and 2000.
  • The Snowy Day by Ezra Jack Keats: The Snowy Day received the Caldecott Medal in 1963, and has since become a treasured classic among toddlers and preschoolers. The colorful vintage illustrations are fun for adults, too.
  • The Complete Adventures of Curious George by H.A. Rey and Margret Rey: This collection of seven original volumes chronicles the adventures of Curious George — a mischievous monkey — and his guardian, the Man in the Yellow Hat. Each story features iconic illustrations and playful, uplifting storylines perfect for pre-K children.
  • The House in the Night by Susan Marie Swanson: A 2009 Caldecott Medal winner, this evocative story features gorgeous black-and-white illustrations and an uplifting message about the meaning of home. The dreamy verses will have your kids slumbering in no time.
  • The Paddington Bear series by Michael Bond: The 20 volumes in this imaginative series follow the title character — a teddy bear abandoned at a train station — as he travels the world and makes friends wherever he goes.
  • If You Give a Mouse a Cookie by Laura Joffe Numeroff: Clever illustrations highlight this ‘what if’ story that examines the ramifications of feeding uninvited house guests. This title was followed by If You Give a Moose a Muffin, which follows a similar story arc; both books were illustrated by Laura Joffe Numeroff and Felicia Bond.
  • The Frog and Toad books by Arnold Lobel: This award-winning six-book series explores the illustrated adventures of the two title amphibians. Each book contains multiple stories that lead to lessons about sharing, self-discipline, the merits of hard work and other important concepts.
  • Green Eggs and Ham by Dr. Seuss: This 1960 classic offers the perfect entry point into the idiosyncratic world of Dr. Seuss. Memorable verses and iconic illustrations have made Green Eggs and Ham one of the top English-language children’s bestsellers of all time.
  • The Cat in the Hat by Dr. Seuss: Another memorable beginner’s book from Dr. Seuss, The Cat in the Hat spins a surreal tale about a mischievous feline that entertains a pair of children for the afternoon. Roughly 10 million copies have been printed since its original publication in 1957, and the book has been translated into more than a dozen different languages.
  • Three Little Dreams by Thomas Aquinas Maguire: A boy atop a dragon, a magical star and a bird riding a paper airplane complete the trio of fantastic tales featured in this wordless picture book.
    Love You Forever by Robert Munsch: This heartwarming, pastel-colored mini-epic examines how much a parent loves their child over the course of their lives. Expect a few tears during readings of Love You Forever, which was originally published in 1986.
  • Good Night, Good Knight by Shelley Moore Thomas: Geared toward young elementary-age children, this 46-page tale follows three young dragons and the Good Knight guardian who tucks them in and reads them bedtime stories every night. This title features lovely illustrations by Jennifer Plecas.
    How the Grinch Stole Christmas by Dr. Seuss: A perfect choice for holiday bedtime readings, this Dr. Seuss favorite teaches valuable lessons about the importance of family, community and a sense of belonging. The animated TV special has also become a yuletide institution.

Intermediate readers (ages four to six)

  • Winnie the Pooh and The House at Pooh Corner by A.A. Milne: First published in the 1920s, these two novels have become perennial bedtime favorites and the characters have cemented their place in pop culture. The dreamy tales center around Winnie, a honey-craving teddy bear, and the other animals living in the magical Hundred Acre Wood.
    The Giving Tree by Shel Silverstein: First appearing in 1964, this eco-friendly classic traces the complex — and rewarding — relationship between a boy and his favorite tree over the course of their respective lives.
  • The Arrival by Shaun Tan: This uplifting picture book chronicles the journey of an elderly immigrant who leaves his family to create a better life for them in a new home. Gorgeous illustrations and a profound message elevate The Arrival, which is an ideal tool for teaching tolerance to young elementary schoolers.
  • The Arthur books by Marc Brown: Since the late mid-70s, Marc Brown has entertained children across the globe with his stories about Arthur, a bespectacled aardvark who attends an elementary school with his animal friends. The books in this extensive series boast playful illustrations while tackling some of the issues faced by today’s young people.
  • The Magic School Bus series by Joanna Cole: Led by the lovable Ms. Frizzle — a science teacher with an other-worldly teaching style — the Magic School Bus books take readers on fascinating scientific journeys. Some of the most memorable exploits involve trips inside the human body, into space and deep within the earth’s core.
  • The Berenstain Bears series by Stan and Jan Berenstein: The Berenstain Bear family — Papa, Mama, Brother and Sister — have delighted young people since the 1960s. Each book in this vast series addresses typical family problems with playful, often funny plotlines and iconic illustrations.
  • Where the Wild Things Are by Maurice Sendak: This 1963 game-changer follows a young boy whose nighttime journey transports him to a magical realm populated by strange — yet friendly — monsters. Where the Wild Things Are received a Caldecott Medal in 1964.
  • Horton Hears a Who! By Dr. Seuss: Horton — a lovable elephant — gets to the bottom of a strange noise in this 1954 illustrated classic from Dr. Seuss. The story emphasizes concepts like kindness, empathy and the importance of community.
  • The Lorax by Dr. Seuss: One of Dr. Seuss’s most socially conscious works, The Lorax tells the tale of a strange mustachioed creature who appears to warn mankind about the environmental dangers of deforestation and urbanization.
  • Oh, the Places You’ll Go! By Dr. Seuss: This tribute to the joys and mysteries of adult life has been cherished by both kids and grown-ups since it first appeared in 1990. This was the last book published in Dr. Seuss’s lifetime.

Experienced readers (ages seven and older)

  • Where the Sidewalk Ends and A Light in the Attic by Shel Silverstein: The idiosyncratic poetry of Shel Silverstein is on full display in this pair of verse collections that have charmed children for generations. Both titles are often available in boxed sets.
  • The Wind in the Willows by Kenneth Grahame: This 1908 classic chronicles the adventures of Mr. Toad, Rat, Badger and the other beastly denizens of England’s Thames Valley. The Wind in the Willows went on to inspire several film and stage adaptations.
  • Alice in Wonderland and Through the Looking Glass by Lewis Carroll: Alice’s adventures with the Mad Hatter, the Cheshire Cat and Wonderland’s other residents have stirred the imaginations of young readers for more than 150 years. Classic illustrations help drive home the absurd, memorable stories featured in these two novels.
  • James and the Giant Peach by Roald Dahl: This vivid, imaginative tale chronicles the adventures of James and his insect friends aboard the titular oversized fruit. Their exciting journey is ideal for older kids, while the fantastic imagery will delight young listeners.
  • Alexander and the Terrible, Horrible, No Good, Very Bad Day by Judith Viorst: This funny account of one boy’s rough day at home and school ends with a positive message about appreciating what you have and not dwelling on negative experiences. The book features wonderful illustrations by Ray Cruz.
  • Miss Nelson Is Missing by Harry Allard: The kindly Ms. Nelson has disappeared from her rowdy grade-school classroom, only to be replaced by the strict Viola Swamp. Complete with a surprise ending, this title offers important lessons about the consequences of good — and bad — behavior.
  • Matilda by Roald Dahl: Featuring memorable illustrations by Quentin Blake, this bedtime and classroom favorite from 1988 follows the intelligent and resourceful Matilda as she navigates a challenging childhood populated with memorable supporting characters.
  • Charlie and the Chocolate Factory by Roald Dahl: This classic tale of perseverance follows young Charlie Bucket as he travels through Wonka Land, a magical candy factory presided over by an enigmatic host. The story is charming, dreamy and harrowing in equal measure — an ideal bedtime choice for older elementary students. Several sequels followed.
  • Charlotte’s Web by E.B. White: Classic illustrations by Garth Williams highlight this touching story of a pig named Arnold and his friend Charlotte, a spider with a few little ones on the way. Get the tissues ready.
  • Heidi by Johanna Spyri: Heidi tells the exciting tale of a plucky Swiss orphan who goes to live with her grumpy grandfather, and then must find her way back to him after she is kidnapped by a sinister governess. The timeless message and beautiful prose still feel fresh today, more than 130 years since the novel’s original publication.
  • Little Women by Louisa May Alcott: This story of the four March sisters and their determined matriarch has been cherished by little girls since it first appeared in 1868. Younger readers might struggle with the old-fashioned prose, but the book is quite suitable for ages 8 and up.
  • The Ramona series by Beverly Cleary: Beginning with Ramona & Beezus in 1955, this seven-book series follows spunky Ramona Quimby and her sister Beezus throughout their childhood. Along the way, each book tackles the importance of family and the unbreakable bond between siblings of any age.
  • Because of Winn-Dixie by Kate DiCamillo: A Newbery Honor winner, this 1990 coming-of-age story follows young Opal and her closest companion, an ugly mutt named for the titular grocery store where she first encounters him.
  • The Fudge series by Judy Blume: This four-book series follows 9-year-old Peter Hatcher and his rambunctious two-year-old brother, Fudge, whose escapades keep getting Peter into trouble.
    Black Beauty by Anna Sewell: Written from the perspective of Black Beauty — a colt who is raised in the English countryside — this 1877 classic was one of the first stories to address the important issue of animal welfare. Later illustrated versions have cemented this book as a bedtime favorite for all ages.
  • The Little House on the Prairie series by Laura Ingalls Wilder: Ms. Wilder’s autobiographical accounts of rural life in the 19th century have charmed readers for generations. The vivid stories in this nine-book series give parents an opportunity to draw parallels between the past and present.
  • The Encyclopedia Brown series by Donald J. Sobol: Let your kids exercise their brains with this fun, compelling series about a young gumshoe who solves neighborhood mysteries. Each chapter features a hidden solution at the end, giving listeners the chance to crack the case on their own before the answer is revealed.
  • Tuck Everlasting by Natalie Babbitt: This 1972 classic follows the Tuck family, who attempt to live a normal acceptance after being granted eternal life from a magical spring. The book is still popular in today’s classrooms, as well as during bedtimes.
  • The Secret Garden by Frances Hodgson Burnett: In this powerful story from 1911, orphaned Mary Lennox travels to live with a distant relative in a countryside manor and soon learns her new home is filled with mysteries. The lengthy tale is ideal for nightly readings with older children.
  • A Wrinkle in Time Quartet by Madeleine L’Engle: Winner of numerous awards including the 1963 Newbery Medal this four-part science fiction saga follows a young girl searching for her missing father, a scientist with a mysterious past.

Additional resources

Our lists are by no means exhaustive, and discovering new works is part of the joy of reading bedtime stories to your children. For additional information about putting your kids to bed and ensuring they get a good night’s sleep, be sure to visit the following pages on Tuck.

————–

Ben Murray is writer and researcher for Tuck Sleep Foundation, a sleep science hub. He can usually be found running, hiking, biking or kayaking around the Pacific Northwest ― though he enjoys a good nap as much as the next person. We’ve reproduced this article with permission from the foundation (original appearance here). Corilee Christou of LibraryEndowment.org, a retired librarian and not-so-retired grandmother, says Ben’s advice is on the money. That said, we’ll welcome additional suggestions.

Image credit: Shutterstock (via contract with Tuck).


Syfy’s Dune Miniseries is the Most Okay Adaptation of the Book to Date [Published articles]

Frank Herbert's Dune, SciFi minseries, 2000

Syfy (previously known as the Sci-Fi Channel) went through a minor renaissance in the late 90s and early aughts, producing television that set the bar for a lot of fascinating entertainment to come. Without shows like Farscape, Battlestar Galactica, and Stargate, it is doubtful that the current television milieu—where shows like Westworld and American Gods are considered high quality entertainment—would exist in the same form.

This was also the same era in which they developed two Dune miniseries. The first came in 2000.

Frank Herbert’s Dune was a massive production for a television project, with any estimated twenty million dollar budget for three film-length episodes that encompassed each “book” within the Dune novel. It featured an international cast and won Emmys for effects and cinematography. It was a massive undertaking for the channel, and to this day it remains (along with its sequel Children of Dune) among the highest three rated programs that Syfy has every produced.

The Dune miniseries is an excellent place to delineate the line between how close an adaptation of a book should run in order to make for a good viewing experience. This is a question that always needs considering when literature makes the turn to cinema, but the balance is rarely achieved. And while the Syfy miniseries is better than any other version on offer, it doesn’t reach spectacular heights due to the desire to be as close to the written text as possible.

Among the parts that sit strangely is the pacing of the whole thing; while the idea of giving each section of the book its own film-length treatment seems sound, the story naturally drags at certain points in the book that work in prose but not on screen. There are also places where it seem as though the narrative gets over-explained in an effort to be sure that no one watching is left behind. It’s a good instinct, but it can get tedious in places. There are lines that seem lifted from a careful checklist of What Must Be in A Dune Movie: “Oh good, we got that bit in. Now this bit.”

Frank Herbert's Dune, SciFi minseries, 2000

The cast is a fascinating array of performers, but some fulfill their parts better than others. Scottish actor Alec Newman was selected to play Paul Atreides, and he isn’t quite eerie enough when the occasion calls for it. He’s also too old to play the part, but that was a conscious decision of the part of the writer-director John Harrison—he was concerned that he wouldn’t be able to find the right talent if Paul were cast as a teenager. The problem with making that choice is that the script actually pens him as more teenager-like than the book ever did; Paul has plenty of moments were he is petulant and overly-stubborn and fails to discern the motives of others the way Paul does in the novel. Making that change would have been fine with a teenaged actor, but it’s odd coming from someone who is clearly 25 years old. He gains his footing more as the story goes on, but it’s a odd way to begin.

William Hurt is not the person that I’d normally consider for Duke Leto, but he brings a certain reserved calm that works for the character. Saskia Reeves, on the other hand, embodies everything that you would expect from Lady Jessica in both bearing and commanding presence. Barbara Kodetová is divine as Chani in both her sensitivity and fierceness, and Uwe Ochsenknecht makes a wonderfully gruff Stilgar. Somehow Matt Kessler (later of Middleman fame) is playing Feyd-Rautha, and it’s the strangest casting choice you’ve ever seen, but it’s also hard not to love the strangeness of it. Giancarlo Giannini was an excellent pick for Emperor Shaddam, and it’s always amazing to see him act through an array of increasingly improbable costumes.

But the real gold standard is born by Ian McNiece, who manages to make the Baron Harkonnen—easily one of the most despicable characters in science fiction literature—every bit as conniving and vicious as he needs to be… and every bit as fascinating. McNiece has a superb sense of how to make the baron mesmerizing to watch no matter how odiously he behaves; when so much of the narrative turns on paying attention to Harkonnen scheming, it is desperately important that their plotting holds our attention. Every time he ends his scenes on one of those goofy rhymes, you kind of want to punch the air and groan at the same time.

Frank Herbert's Dune, SciFi minseries, 2000

One of the only places where the miniseries deviates from the novel is arguably the smartest change it makes in the adaptation; the choice to make Irulan an active participant in the narrative, making her way through the machinations of the other houses to learn the truth about what is going on between her father, House Harkonnen, and House Atreides. It doesn’t always work (the point where she goes to see Feyd seems particularly silly, as it couldn’t be more obvious that she’s attempting to get information out of him), but when it does, it helps to keep the audience apace of what’s going on. Irulan’s position prevents a lot of unnecessary infodumping because she learns as she goes and informs the viewer as a result—preventing the need for a lot of ridiculous voiceover work (hi, David Lynch). Her appearance at the dinner party hosted by House Atreides in the first episode is such a smart reworking that I sometimes forget she doesn’t show up to the party in the novel. Julie Cox is elegant and cunning with the part, and makes Irulan’s own journey every bit as interesting as Paul’s on the flip side of the political machine.

The effects of this series read like a master class in making a relatively small (for the scale of the project) budget work like magic. While plenty of the special effects shots are clearly reused throughout, they are still well-rendered. The matte backdrop paintings used in the desert sequences are gorgeous, and while an occasional sound stage effect is discernible from not shooting the desert scenes outdoors, it is still an impressive feat. The Fremen blue-eye effect was achieved in a fascinating way—the actors were given UV contact lenses and then filmed with special cameras to catch the light. As a result, the glow of Fremen eyes is particularly riveting in this version. The soundtrack is also beautifully evocative of the the atmosphere, an impressive turn out by Graeme Revell.

But the real heroes of this miniseries are the people who did the design work. The costumes and sets are gorgeously appointed and so shrewdly thought through; the Bene Gesserit garb is utterly unique but still has a vague sense of “nun” about it, the complicated construction of Irulan’s hats and gowns are gravity-defying and glorious, activities shown in the sietches are varied and vibrant, the separation of various groups by color selection and fabrics and symbols is clear and concise. The fight choreography positively sparkles in all the places where it counts. Also, the stillsuits actually look like reasonable interpretations of what a stillsuit should look like, blending into the desert surroundings, built like functional everyday clothing. The people who were constructing this world clearly loved it, and it shows in every frame. For so much detail to come through in a television miniseries on a cable network is astounding, and it reads like a much grander project that was rolling in money.

Frank Herbert's Dune, SciFi minseries, 2000

Space nuns. Nuns in space.

There are thematic resonances that get lost in the version. Despite wanting to stick close to the book, it seems as though effectively communicating how dark Paul’s journey becomes is difficult for most writers and directors to stomach. (Paul doesn’t make it rain in this version, but he does make a Madhi statue into a waterfall, briefly, with no indication of where that ability suddenly comes from.) The indication that Paul’s victory will lead to endless war and suffering is never carefully communicated in this version, likely to prevent the audience from coming away with a poor opinion of their protagonist.

Knowing all that… I would argue that while this version of Dune is impressive to look at, its successor—the Children of Dune miniseries—outstrips it in the end. We will get to it soon, but for now, this miniseries is the best possible version of Dune that you can find on screen. And it’s a great tool for introducing friends (if they won’t read the book, of course) into the fold. It is hard not to love any adaptation that clearly has so much love for its source.

Emily Asher-Perrin wishes people actually dressed the way they do in the miniseries… sometimes. You can bug her on Twitter and Tumblr, and read more of her work here and elsewhere.

Why Do Gas Station Prices Constantly Change? Blame the Algorithm [Published articles]

Retailers are using artificial-intelligence software to set optimal prices, testing textbook theories of competition, says a WSJ report. An anonymous reader shares the article: One recent afternoon at a Shell-branded station on the outskirts of this Dutch city, the price of a gallon of unleaded gas started ticking higher, rising more than three-and-a-half cents by closing time. A little later, a competing station three miles down the road raised its price about the same amount. The two stations are among thousands of companies that use artificial-intelligence software to set prices (Editor's note: the link could be paywalled; alternative source). In doing so, they are testing a fundamental precept of the market economy. [...] Advances in AI are allowing retail and wholesale firms to move beyond 'dynamic pricing' software, which has for years helped set prices for fast-moving goods, like airline tickets or flat-screen televisions. Older pricing software often used simple rules, such as always keeping prices lower than a competitor. These new systems crunch mountains of historical and real-time data to predict how customers and competitors will react to any price change under different scenarios, giving them an almost superhuman insight into market dynamics. Programmed to meet a certain goal -- such as boosting sales -- the algorithms constantly update tactics after learning from experience. Even as the rise of algorithms determining prices poses a challenge to anti-trust law, authorities in the United States and Europe haven't opened probes or accused anyone of impropriety for using AI to set prices.

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Ancient Ogunquit Beach on Mars [Published articles]

This was once a beach -- on ancient Mars. This was once a beach -- on ancient Mars.


Using Ultrasonic Beacons to Track Users [Published articles]

The asteroid belt [Published articles]

Privacy: Bartering Data for Services [Published articles]

Data is the new currency. A phrase we’ve heard frequently in the wake of the story of Unroll.me selling user data to Uber.

Two keys to that story:

  • Users didn’t realize their data was being sold.
  • Free services can be considered a sophisticated form of phishing attack.

In both cases prevention requires user awareness. How do we get user awareness? Force meaningful disclosure. How do we force meaningful disclosure? Here’s an odd thought: use the tax system.

If data is the new currency then why isn’t exchanging data for use of a service a barter transaction? If a doctor exchanges medical services for chickens, for example, that is a taxable event at fair market value. It's a barter arrangement. A free service that sells user data is similarly bartering the service for data, otherwise said service would not be offered. 

How would it work?

  • Service providers send out 1099-Bs to users for the fair market value of the service. Fair market value could be determined using a similar for pay service or as a percentage of the income generated from the data being sold.

  • The IRS treats barter transactions as income received. Users would need to pay income tax for the “free” services they use that sell their data.

What would it accomplish?

  • Force disclosure by services. Businesses making money selling data would be forced to inform their users that they are doing so because it’s required for tax accounting.

  • Eyes Wide Open. Users would know for certain that the services they are using are selling their data. They could then determine if the relationship is worth the cost.

This would not prevent free service for data arrangements. There’s nothing wrong with exchanging data for a service, but everyone should enter such a transaction knowingly.

How Psychology Today Sees Richard Stallman [Published articles]

After our article about Richard Stallman's new video interview, Slashdot reader silverjacket shared this recent profile from Psychology Today that describes Richard Stallman's quest "to save us from a web of spyware -- and from ourselves." By using proprietary software, Stallman believes, we are forfeiting control of our computers, and thus of our digital lives. In his denunciation of all nonfree software as inherently abusive and unethical, he has alienated many possible allies and followers. But he is not here to make friends. He is here to save us from a software industry he considers predatory in ways we've yet to recognize... for Stallman, moralism is the whole point. If you write or use free software only for practical reasons, you'll stop when it's inconvenient, and freedom will disappear. Stallman collaborator Eben Moglen -- a law professor at Columbia, as well as the FSF's general counsel -- assesses Stallman's legacy by saying "the idea of copyleft and the proposition that social and political freedom can't happen in a society without technological freedom -- those are his long-term meanings. And humanity will be aware of those meanings for centuries, whatever it does about them." The article also includes quotes from Linus Torvalds and Eric S. Raymond -- along with some great artwork. In addition to insisting the reporter refer to Linux as "GNU/Linux," Stallman also required that the article describe free software without using the term open source, a phrase he sees as "a way that people who disagree with me try to cause the ethical issues to be forgotten." And he ultimately got Psychology Today to tell its readers that "Nearly all the software on our phones and computers, as well as on other machines, is nonfree or 'proprietary' software and is riddled with spyware and back doors installed by Apple, Google, Microsoft, and the like."

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Congress like rogue cells that need to be cured [Published articles]

Here's a thoughtful, passionate piece in CNN by Xeni that anyone who breathes (and thus needs health care) should read. It's about the time before Obamacare, when her new insurance company had opened a fraud investigation because they suspected she might have sneakily been living with cancer before she signed up with them. In other words, she might have had a pre-existing condition. (Off with her head!) Thankfully (or luckily, because the timing of her new insurance, right before her diagnosis, was pure luck), she had signed up for insurance first and was cleared of any wrong-doing.

Her piece is also about the American Health Care Act, that some Republicans didn't even read before it passed in the House yesterday by only five votes.

When news broke that the American Health Care Act had passed the House by less than five votes, it aired with footage of that bizarre Rose Garden party at which lawmakers and President Donald Trump, pretty much all older white men, gathered with cases of Bud Light to party. Some reports have them pre-gaming before the vote, getting pumped up by listening to "Takin' Care of Business" and the theme from "Rocky."

Seriously, who does those things before or after stealing health care from 24 million people?

My favorite part of Xeni's article is when she compares our ignorant Congress to rogue cells – the rogue cells of America's body that we need to seriously treat.

During my treatment, I learned that people like to speak of cancer as a battle. It is not. It is a disease of cellular biology, a progressive one, that strikes without warning and seemingly without logic. My National Institutes of Health-trained oncologist helped me understand that this wasn't a foreign terrorist enemy, so to speak, but my own native cells gone haywire. Like Congress. That shared body of representatives has one common job, to represent the well-being of our human American lives. How could they take an action that is so clearly against the most basic human interest, of remaining alive? I felt that same sense of betrayal about my body's own rogue cells. I needed chemotherapy, surgery, and radiation. In my opinion, those heartless congressmen need tough medicine, too. And they need to start looking for new jobs.

Oh wait, here's my other favorite part.

We need a no-BS approach to health care that honors the words of our forefathers. Every American is entitled to life, liberty and the pursuit of happiness. You can't get to liberty or happiness without your life.

The Perseus Cluster Waves [Published articles]

The Perseus Cluster Waves The Perseus Cluster Waves


Actually, Congress Did Undermine Our Internet Privacy Rights [Published articles]

Don't listen to the telecom lobby. Congress' vote to repeal the Federal Communications Commission's (FCC) broadband privacy rules has a profound impact on your online privacy rights.

According to those who supported the repeal, the rules never took effect (they were scheduled to do so throughout 2017), so the repeal doesn't change anything. You hear it from the likes of AT&T as well as lawmakers like Senator Jeff Flake (R-AZ), the author of the legislation who was asked about it at a recent town hall. You are hearing it now in state legislatures that are working diligently to fix the gap Congress created.

But that argument is meant to distract you from the real issue - you had a legal right to privacy from your broadband provider, and when Congress repealed the broadband privacy rules using the Congressional Review Act (CRA), Congress diminished that right and may have hamstrung the FCC from enforcing it in the future.

Here are the facts.

The FCC’s Broadband Privacy Rules Were Based on a Law Passed by Congress

All regulations passed by federal agencies must be founded in laws passed by Congress. In essence, a regulation from a federal agency is supposed to be a means of enforcing the law. Here, the underlying law is Section 222 of the Communications Act (under Title II of the Communications Act). Congress created Section 222 in 1996 as a means to protect our privacy from telecommunications carriers who have unique access to our communications and personal information. There was a window of time when Section 222 did not apply to broadband companies, but as a matter of law today it does. When you look at what the House and Senate said about the law when they passed it, it is clear Congress intended Section 222 to create an affirmative right to privacy in our communications.

The CRA repeal had a direct effect on Section 222. Obviously if the ISPs spent close to $8 million lobbying Congress to pass it, it must have had some impact. Here is what their money bought. Before the broadband privacy repeal, Internet providers had an obligation to follow all of the legal duties and responsibilities that protect our right to online communications privacy per Section 222 through FCC enforcement. But when Congress utilized the CRA to repeal the FCC’s broadband privacy rules, they effectively told the FCC “you can’t enforce the law in this specific way.” There was a lot to like in the now repealed privacy rules, but now that Congress has prohibited the FCC from enforcing those rules (or passing “substantially similar” rules) as a matter of federal law, it is basically up to the states to step in to fully restore our privacy rights until a new federal law is passed or the courts minimize the impact of the repeal.

Some More History on Section 222 in Terms of Broadband Privacy

From 1996 until 2005, Section 222 applied to telephone service and DSL broadband. It was unclear how the law applied to cable modems because the FCC had not explicitly decided how to classify broadband Internet through cable, though cable companies were generally regulated as television providers by the FCC. In an attempt to resolve this discrepancy and harmonize the application of the law the FCC embarked on a long and ultimately failed journey to classify broadband service as an “information service” under Title I while still retaining oversight akin to that for Title II telecommunications carriers through a now defunct legal theory known as ancillary jurisdiction.

This means that even when cable modems were “information services” as of 2002, and DSL in 2005, the FCC still believed it had authority over broadband companies to do things like enforce network neutrality—and did so during a Republican administration. However, Comcast defeated the “ancillary jurisdiction” theory in the courts and Verizon later defeated the FCC again assuring that anything classified as an “information service” under Title I is no longer subject to any meaningful consumer protections (this is also why Comcast, Verizon and AT&T want to be classified as information services today). If the FCC wanted to retain consumer protection authority over broadband companies, they needed to re-evaluate how it applied the law.

As the high speed broadband market became less competitive and given the dramatic power Internet providers can wield over how we use the web, EFF and others strongly advocated that the FCC put broadband back under Title II of the Communications Act so that the agency could enforce simple, light-touch regulations to protect privacy and net neutrality. The FCC (and federal courts) agreed, and in 2015, in a victory for fans of Internet freedom, the Commission re-classified broadband providers as telecommunications carriers under Title II. That means the law Congress passed in 1996 to protect our communications privacy, Section 222 of the Communications Act, once again clearly applied to all broadband Internet providers.

And This is What Congress Took Away

The FCC’s now-repealed and prohibited privacy rules divided Internet subscriber’s personal information into three distinct categories, each requiring broadband companies to get different types of consent from their customers before they could use or disclose that information. Those categories were “sensitive,” “non-sensitive,” and “exceptions to consent.” Sensitive information, including browsing history, app usage data, and the contents of communications, was given the highest protection. Before they could legally use that information for anything other than providing Internet service, your Internet provider needed your explicit opt-in consent.

The FCC agreed with privacy advocates including EFF that carriers have a legal duty under Section 222 (a) of the Communications Act to protect the "confidentiality of proprietary information of...customers." The now repealed privacy rules were the FCC’s attempt to define the contours of that legal duty. The other category of information that was subject to opt-in consent was “customer proprietary network information” (CPNI), defined as "information that relates to the quantity, technical configuration, type, destination, location, and amount of use of a telecommunications service subscribed to by any customer...made available to the carrier by the customer solely by virtue of the carrier-customer relationship." The full list of what the FCC considered CPNI can be found in paragraphs 58 to 84 of the now repealed Report and Order.

To reiterate, all of these consumer protections listed above are now prohibited as a matter of law and the FCC is not allowed to interpret and enforce the communications privacy law in this way at this time. That is, in essence, what Congress took away with its CRA repeal.

The Cable and Telephone Industry are Not Done Eliminating our Rights

Now that they have a law, Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon are coming in for the final blow against both privacy and Internet freedom. FCC Chairman Pai recently released his plan to reclassify broadband Internet provides as Title I information services. Make no mistake, such a plan will not only end Internet freedom by drastically enhancing the power of Comcast, AT&T, and Verizon to dictate the future of the Internet, but it will assure that any vestiges of privacy protections that remain under a neutered Section 222 are completely removed. Worst yet, the plan ignores the obvious gap in consumer protection that exists for telephone companies ever since the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals found that common carriers are exempt from FTC enforcement as well for the western United States.

We must put a stop to this plan. We came very close to stopping the broadband privacy repeal, and now we have to redouble our efforts, recruit more of our friends, and tell Washington D.C. that we value a free and open Internet that is protected by law.