My new OnePlus One phone is amazing

I have just bought a OnePlus One phone, and have been using it for a couple of days. Let me tell you: it’s AMAZING.

If you have never heard of the company, don’t worry, you’re not alone. But you should definitely check it out, because their phones are incredibly high quality, high specs, and low price (mine was $349). No catch:

  • Qualcomm© Snapdragon™ 801 processor with 2.5GHz Quad-core CPUs
  • Adreno 330 GPU, 578MHz
  • 64 GB eMMC 5.0
  • 3 GB LP-DDR3 RAM, 1866MHz
  • global 4G LTE
  • NFC5.5″ 1080p display
  • 13 megapixel 6 lens camera
  • Tri-microphone with noise cancellation

I decided to get one of these because my Samsung Galaxy S II was getting old, and I wanted to go from the limited stock Android, full of my cell carrier’s bloatware, to a more open and free Cyanogen Mod (11S), which will also allow me to experiment with advanced cell cryptography.

Purchasing one of these phones is not that easy. I guess they want to control the huge demand they are experiencing. But I got an invitation, so I decided to use it 😉

Upon receiving the package I felt something I had not feel since the first iPhone: like a fan-boy. Sorry Apple, you lost your touch long time ago, and many of us just despise how you do not care about user’s rights and freedoms.

OnePlus has put a lot of care in every detail. And after a couple of days of spending too much time using the phone (who wouldn’t?) I must say even the batter life is amazing!

AWESOME JOB, OnePlus guys!

I was forced to hack into Schiphol Airport wifi

A couple weeks ago I was at Schiphol Airport in Amsterdam. Of course, when I arrive in an airport with enough time ahead of my boarding, I look for a plug and wifi. Luckily Schiphol is an excellent airport, offering both. The only problem is that every time I clicked on the “Enjoy unlimited free wifi – Connect” button, I got an “Unknown error 0” message back.

Don’t tell me “Enjoy unlimited free wifi” and then try to prevent me from accessing it. That is cruel and just wrong. I was told to “Enjoy unlimited free wifi”, so I had to. To celebrate Free Software Day, you know.

I looked into the code, and saw an error. But luckily I also saw the way to by-pass it. All you have to do is to manually enter the correct URL, select the “Internet Voucher” option, and enter “schipholfreaccess” in both the ID and password fields (and accept the conditions). It will not give you an access screen, but you will be able to “Enjoy unlimited free wifi”.

Who said hackers are not obedient?

;-p

Networking at the CUNY President’s office

On May 6th, having just returned from quick trips to Cleveland and Atlanta, I attended with my wife the round table debate “Curiosity, Understanding, and Utility: Science and the Creative Economy” held at the City University of New York Graduate Center’s Proshansky Auditorium.

panel

William Bialek, director of the Graduate Center’s Initiative for the Theoretical Sciences, moderated a discussion with Jennifer Tour Chayes, distinguished scientist and managing director of Microsoft Research New England and Microsoft Research New York City; Fernando Pereira, research at Google; and Chris Wiggins, chief data scientist at the New York Times and faculty member in the Department of Applied Mathematics and Applied Physics at Columbia University.

panelists

After the round table my wife and I were requested to join the panelist in a private reception at CUNY President’s Office, where we had the delightful opportunity to engage in very stimulating conversations. So much so that we did not even try the great looking sushi that was being served!

Interesting how two days later I was talking about those very same issues in a completely different setting: at Grace Hoadley Dodge Vocational High School, where I do volunteer work mentoring a Bronx teenager.

Chromecast + Hola = Multimedia freedom

How many times have you tried to access online media that was not available in your country? How many times have you gotten frustrated with proxy services?

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How many times have you wished there was an easy way to wirelessly display online content on your TV without paying for expensive privative boxes?

Enter Hola.org + Chromecast

Hola is a free browser extension used by 14 million people to access geographically restricted online media.

Google’s Chromecast is a $35 TV HDMI USB powered dongle that is extremely easy to set up and use. Coupled with apps (from Netflix to Hulu, Pandora to AllCast, Plex to Songza), you can play, not “stream”, all kinds of online multimedia on your TV.

Now, when I travel internationally and I want to see a Netflix movie, which I paid for with my subscription, I don’t have to take Netflix’s ridiculous geographical restriction (or TVE outside Spain, BBC outside UK, or just about anything inside China…), I just use Hola and access it, then connect to the Chromecast that I have plugged into my hotel’s TV and voilà!

UPDATE: Here are some other alternatives.

Corporate cowardice, political hypocrisy

On July 25 I was asked by someone at IBM to write an article about the use of the cloud in healthcare:

I’d like to offer you the opportunity to author an article which we would look to promote across all of our social properties, other external communications as well as our paid media sponsorships, i.e. blogs.

I was given suggestions on article length, topic, and keywords, but freedom to write whatever I wanted. So I did (you can find it here) on July 31.

On August 7, I received the following feedback (and two more points about sources and brands):

Thanks for the submission. I shared this with my team and they have requested some edits.

We need to avoid calling attention to controversial news, i.e., National Security Agency 

I replied the same day:

On the contrary, we need to address it.
The market, customers, are talking about it.
When you mention “cloud”, the first thing they say now is “fear” (even more than ever before). Particularly in Healthcare.
Many of those customers are from other countries, or working in international networks, so it is of particular concern to them that a government may breach their laws and make them liable.

I believe I have addressed it in a “non-controversial”, “non-partisan”, “non-beligerant” manner. My own personal opinion is much much stronger. But since this is a professional article, I have kept it professional. For that very same reason, I believe this issue must be addressed.

To which I received this reply:

Jorge,  I understand your view regarding the point below, but unfortunately I have been advised by our comms team that we can not publish an article with this content. 

And this is what I had to say to that:

With all my respects to your comms team:

“Recent revelations about the extent to which the NSA obtains electronic data from third-parties will likely have an immediate and lasting impact on the competitiveness of the U.S. cloud computing industry if foreign customers decide the risks of storing data with a U.S. company outweigh the benefits. Unless the White House or Congress acts soon, the U.S. cloud computing industry stands to lose $22 to $35 billion over the next three years.”
Source: The Information Technology & Innovation Foundation

You are seeing a $35 BILLION train coming at you and you want to look somewhere else? If you don’t address the issue, your customers will be the ones looking somewhere else. And the way to address the issue is through transparency.

Sorry, my personal convictions and ethics are stronger than my ego or the need for publicity of my company. Without that aspect on my article, I can not publish it.
I am willing to work on the wording, but any article on the cloud today needs to address the issue.

The next day, the final word came:

I appreciate all your efforts, but it might be best if you don’t continue with this article. 

And here is what I have to say about that decision:

Corporate cowardice makes me sick, and it is toxic. Such meekness betrays not only a lack of ethical courage, but also a poor sense of where their real interest lie. Sure, it is easy to understand that individuals are afraid to loose their job (from the advertising exec being fired by the VP of Marketing to the CEO being ousted by the C-Board, who is afraid of stockholders, who are afraid of media, who are afraid of government, who is afraid of lobbies and the military-industrial complex…). But its also easy to understand that soldiers have to follow orders, even when those orders mean committing crimes. And then its all about punishing the whistle blower.

As a society, we owe to ourselves to be clear, transparent, and honest. Corporations are not different than that. Only those who sell “concepts” have to hide behind the “appearance”. And that is the problem. We are constantly sold things we don’t need, or worse, things that are bad for us. From junk food to addictive pharmaceuticals that alleviate symptoms but do not cure the cause of disease, to airport body scanners that are dangerous to our health, to operating systems designed to spy on you. Everybody has come to believe that “we” are consumers, tax-payers, statistics, and “they” are profit-maximizing machines. But that is not true. Corporations are made of people. People who can and should make decisions and be responsible for them. People who have or should have ethics.

Why is everybody hiding behind a title, a badge, a desk, a uniform?

The more aggressive the behavior, whether it be through censorship, or through forceful compliance, the more it shows weakness and fear.

Take the Government of the U.S.A. Hiding behind a “sounds-so-good-I-want-to-believe-it” “humanitarian” excuse, planning the bombing of another country. Use of chemicals on civilians regardless of the 1925 convention you say? How about the U.S.A. using millions of gallons of Napalm and Agent Orange in Vietnam in the sixties? That caused over 4 million dioxin victims. Or take the Gulf War syndrome: depleted uranium, sarin gas, pyridostigmine, organophosphate pesticides… The US Government and military again using chemicals weapons against an enemy and exposing his own troops! That was 1991.

Don’t get me wrong: what Assad is doing with his own people is a crime. A crime Western countries knew about for decades (and now, thanks to Manning, we know that and the NY Times writes about it, but Manning continues in jail for giving us proof of the big hypocrisy). But so was the US using the army against striking coal miners in the 1920-21 West Virginia coal wars. And nobody paid for it. Or the Kent State student massacre by the Ohio National Guard in 1970. Or Abu Ghraib. Or Guantanamo. Or… you get the point.

So the political hypocrisy is colossal. Why does the US Government need it? If you are the biggest and mightiest, you don’t need excuses to bully your weight around a region you want to control for oil (or rare earth minerals, or whatever the resource happens to be at any point in history). A region that was messed up largely by the USA and the UK even before “the victors” threw it into forced conflict by drawing artificial borders after WWII. 

But here comes fear: it was fear of the communist, then fear of losing control of military bases, then fear of losing key resources, then fear of terrorists… it’s a weak and paranoid state afraid of its own shadow. This is not even a great and mighty empire. It will never be respected. And with such hypocrisy, it will never even be feared. Other countries have sustained millions of lost lives pursuing principles or defending themselves. No excuses, no fear. And after their ordeals, they have gone back to living their peaceful and cooperative lives. Why can’t the USA do the same?

The USA “sells itself” as the defender of international law and order. But then it should start with its own actions. And look everywhere. Somalia, Sudan, Congo, Kenya, Yemen, Chad, Afghanistan… Or is it that only those with strategic interest (military, resources) “deserve” help? Perhaps it is shameful that most of those crises have been directly or indirectly been caused by US intervention in other countries’ affairs? 

“A matter of resources”, you say. “We can not be everywhere and help everyone” (if by help you mean bombing, and financing assassins and terrorist, supporting military coups, etc).

Another fallacy. There are resources. Lots of resources. Discretionary budget to be assigned to whatever government chooses. There was money to bail out unsupervised greedy private banks. Why aren’t those nationalized? Why aren’t all their executives in jail? 

And that happens everywhere. The Spanish Government says there is no money for public schools, public healthcare, or research. They are taking the dangerous and failed austerity approach as prescribed by Germany (Greece and Portugal should have been examples enough). But when it comes to politicians’ salaries, Olympic Games bids, or bailing out failed private banks with proven ties to corrupt politicians, there is money, lots of money.

FEAR. That is the reason. Fear to lose the next election. Fear to lose the private jet, or not to be able to pay the mortgage. Eventually just fear to lose power and riches. But we are born naked. We leave this world alone. Like Samurais, Buddhism, Søren Kierkegaard, or bad sci-fi movies say “Danger is real. But fear is a choice.” And sometimes we create danger by being afraid.

Our life begins to end the day we  become silent about things that matter

I Have a dream speech. Martin Luther King Jr.

Speak up. Take a stand. Don’t hide behind a desk, a title, a badge, a uniform. 

“What can I do?” you ask. That’s another post. Coming up. Stay tuned. But in the meantime: gather information, facts, data, think, debate, and take a stand. And above all, don’t be afraid.

Playing with the robot (Roomba)

We got great gifts for our wedding, but hands down, the best (ever!) is A ROBOT.

My mother-in-law got us a robot. Got that? How cool is that!?

And it is not to make her daughter’s life easier, because I am the one who vacuums at home. She did it because it is cool. Heck yeah it is!

So the Roomba is nothing new. It has been around for a decade already. But it still amazes me, from the design to the usefulness. 

The best part is that they (iRobot) encourage you to tinker with it, to hack it. It took them almost 3 years, but they decided to publish documentation in 2005 and to open the interface in 2006. Now there are a ton of funny, useful, and crazy things you can do with it, like turning it into a printer or drawing machine or an air quality controller or telepresence robot or battle robot, playing pac man or music, control it with your phone or with a Kinect, modding it to resemble a Cylon (Battle Star Galactica)…

Kinect

There is even an instructables page on Roomba hacks.

Pac Man

Nevertheless, for now it is really cool to use it to vacuum while I write this… and to watch our cat stare at it trying to determine if is is friend or foe 😉 

 

How to abide to the law while rejecting threats

According to Spanish law

logo ministeriologo secretaría

web (emphasis mine):

Information intermediary suppliers:

  • Do not have an obligation to supervise the contents they host, transmit, or classify in a link directory, but must collaborate with public authorities when required to interrupt an IT service or take a content down.

  • They are not, in principle, responsible for alien content they host, transmit, or give access to, but could incur in responsibility if they take an active participation in its ellaboration or, if knowing of a particular material being being illegal, do not act swiftly to take it down or prevent access to it.

So if “someone” send you threatening messages, requiring take down, etc, etc. you have NO obligation to do it. Such request must come from a public authority (like a judge), and the responsibility derives from a content being ILLEGAL (which, again, can only be determined by a judge).

STAND UP FOR OUR RIGHTS!

And, remember: don’t feed the troll 😉

I am being sued by a troll

A few hours after the first email, I received this second one with a threat (again, translated by me; here is the original):

Mr. Cortell:

I can prove my identity and the defamatory content of the indicated page, as I said it has been notarized. I can also prove that this site is currently the subject of proceedings in the Courts of Barcelona, in which the prosecution has already ruled, appreciating criminal evidence. But I see no need to do so, since you have shown no willingness to cooperate (“I do not wish to receive further communications from you”) and your certainty of not being subjected to Spanish law enforcement, since you abhor it and live abroad.
 
So, consider yourself sued.
 
Best regards.

Daniel Vicente
==============
 
Curiously enough, this individual still does not provide any proof of his claims. So he expects me to censor somebody else’s free speech just because he considers himself harmed by it.
 
Let me make myself very clear: until a judge orders me to do so, there is no individual, lawyer, police, or mafioso that can bully me into acting against my principles of believing in a fair legal system with due process and presumption of innocence. Further more, bullying and threats have to be denounced and stood up against. Our rights have to be defended. Othewise draconian laws trying to “control” by limiting them on the internet will lead to complete submission and surrendering, paving the way to a fascist state where we will have no rights left.
 
So, Mr. Daniel Vicente, defend your rights in court. I am defending mine, AND YOURS, by standing up against threats and censorship based (until now) on unsupported claims.

I am requested to take a link down and… Streisand effect!

Today I received this email (it was in Spanish, I have translated it into English because that is the main language of this blog, and in order to give this issue the international coverage that it deserves – sorry for any translation mistake since I am not a lawyer and he writes like an old-fashioned one trying to sound intimidating; here is the original):

Mr. Cortell:

Currently I am suing Greg Prévôt in the Courts of Barcelona, author of a defamatory site which infringes upon my honor, whose link appears in which you administer, at the following address:

http://cortell.net/blog/es/2006/03/lo-que-con-dinero-publico-se-financia-no-puede-ni-debe-ser-patentado-ni-estar-restringido-a-copyright/ 

I presuppose your good faith and understand that the comment with the link to the defamatory web has so far escaped your supervision as editor and moderator. However, given the blatantly criminal content of the linked web, as soon as you gain knowledge of its existence, you are bound to not spread it, since otherwise you would breach the duty of minimum care required of every Internet service provider and would be criminally imputable as necessary collaborator to Greg Prévôt.

The content of the page object of the complaint, temporarily suspended by the author to prevent criminality, is available still using the “cached” function by Google:

http://webcache.googleusercontent. com/search?q=cache:ivHIoHvPdhsJ:esuntroll.blogspot.com.es/2005/06/daniel-vicente-carrillo-irichc-viccahr.html+&cd=5&hl=es&ct=clnk&gl=es 

I also have in my power a public deed also proving this point.

I hereby request that within five days you remove the link in your page to “Cyberspace trolls“, and notify me about it.

While I hope and wish for your immediate cooperation in order to solve this unpleasant matter amicably, I beg you not to underestimate my firm resolution to take all legal actions the law allows me in the legitimate defense of my interests.

Sincerely,

Daniel Vincent

================

And this is what I answered:

Mr. Daniel Vincent, if that is your name,

Let me reply to your message.

I find it disgusting that Spanish law (or any other country’s) try to find web/blog administrators responsible for the comments of third parties, especially when these are non-profit and the administrator has not participated in the speech or debate.

While neither I nor my blog reside in Spain, and therefore your legal threat does not worry me in the least, your tone and attitude do bother me.

The referred link is inoperative. It does not lead to any website, so it not only can not be defamatory, but it can not be verified by me either.

Additionally, the link you provide as reference does not lead to any website, leaving me, again, unable to check anything.

You state in your message that you “also have in my power a public deed also proving this point” without even describing or giving proof, which is of no use to me.

You understand that under these circumstances, and since you are unable to prove your allegations, I flatly refuse to censor anyone.

Moreover, since you seem to show preference for threats (“you are bound to not spread it, since otherwise you would breach the duty of minimum care required of every Internet service provider and would be criminally chargeable as necessary collaborator”), belligerence (“given the blatantly criminal content”), ultimatums and poor grammar [in Spanish, corrected in English] (“I hereby request that within five days you remove the link in your page”), in your own words,” I beg you not to underestimate my firm resolution.”

In my case, my firm resolve to defend the presumption of innocence, to avoid censorship, to fight against unfair laws and those who abuse with them, and not to get intimidated by strangers, as you do not give any proof of your identity, especially writing from an email like irichc23@hotmail.com

Despite our profound differences of personal opinion, let me give you some advice from someone who has gone through slander and cyber disputes with ruthless mafias: let it be. Otherwise, do you know the “Streisand Effect?”, well, there you have it.

One last comment: I do not wish to receive further communications from you. I hope that as a connoisseur of telecommunications laws, you understand what this means.

Sincerely,

Jorge Cortell

How to celebrate 4th of July: defending our rights

I started my 4th of July “celebrations” one day early, by visiting the Declaration of Independence & Bill of Rights, handwritten by Thomas Jefferson, exhibited for the first time together, at the NYPL.

 

Then, today (4th of July) I went to a protest to demand the restoration of the Fourth Amendment:

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“The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated…”

In light of NSA’s shameless domestic and international spying program PRISM (and before that we had ECHELON), it is important that we stand up for what we believe is right, and that we fight to defend the liberties and rights (not only Civil Liberties, but Human Rights) for which so many before us lost their lives.

Yes we Scan

 

Do something.

PS: