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Podcast

My podcast is a regular feed in which I read from one of my stories for a few minutes at least once a week, from whatever friend's house, airport, hotel, conference, treaty negotiation or what-have-you that I'm currently at. You can get the Podcast through iTunes. Alternatively:

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Podcast files an Oggs, streams, and different bitrate MP3s


Podcast: Why it is not possible to regulate robots

Here's a reading (MP3) of a my recent Guardian column, Why it is not possible to regulate robots, which discusses where and how robots can be regulated, and whether there is any sensible ground for "robot law" as distinct from "computer law."

One thing that is glaringly absent from both the Heinleinian and Asimovian brain is the idea of software as an immaterial, infinitely reproducible nugget at the core of the system. Here, in the second decade of the 21st century, it seems to me that the most important fact about a robot – whether it is self-aware or merely autonomous – is the operating system, configuration, and code running on it.

If you accept that robots are just machines – no different in principle from sewing machines, cars, or shotguns – and that the thing that makes them "robot" is the software that runs on a general-purpose computer that controls them, then all the legislative and regulatory and normative problems of robots start to become a subset of the problems of networks and computers.

If you're a regular reader, you'll know that I believe two things about computers: first, that they are the most significant functional element of most modern artifacts, from cars to houses to hearing aids; and second, that we have dramatically failed to come to grips with this fact. We keep talking about whether 3D printers should be "allowed" to print guns, or whether computers should be "allowed" to make infringing copies, or whether your iPhone should be "allowed" to run software that Apple hasn't approved and put in its App Store.

Practically speaking, though, these all amount to the same question: how do we keep computers from executing certain instructions, even if the people who own those computers want to execute them? And the practical answer is, we can't.

Mastering by John Taylor Williams: wryneckstudio@gmail.com

John Taylor Williams is a audiovisual and multimedia producer based in Washington, DC and the co-host of the Living Proof Brew Cast. Hear him wax poetic over a pint or two of beer by visiting livingproofbrewcast.com. In his free time he makes "Beer Jewelry" and "Odd Musical Furniture." He often "meditates while reading cookbooks."

MP3


Podcast: Internet service providers charging for premium access hold us all to ransom

Here's a reading (MP3) of a my latest Guardian column, Internet service providers charging for premium access hold us all to ransom, which tries to make sense of the disastrous news that the Federal Communications Commission is contemplating rules to allow ISPs to demand bribes from publishers in exchange for letting you see the webpages you ask for.

There's a useful analogy to the phone company that I've written about here before: you pay for your phone service every month. The pizza place on the corner also pays for its phone service every month. When you want to order a pizza from Joe's Corner Pizzeria, you call their number. If their phone isn't engaged, it rings and you get to place your order. If they get more orders than they can handle on one line, they buy a second line, a third, even 10 lines to take their orders. Provided one of those lines is free, your call goes through to someone when you ring.

But what if your phone company decided that the way to bring in higher profits was to go around to all the pizza places and shake them down for "premium" access to "their" customers? If Joe's Corner Pizzeria turned them down, your call to Joe's might get a busy signal, even if there were plenty of free lines at Joe's place. Meanwhile, an order to the monied, tasteless sultan of global cardboard pizza-ite, that is, the company who has plenty of money for "premium" access – is easy to reach, because your phone company has promised them that every call will be put through.

The thing is, Joe's is paying for its lines. You're paying for your line. The phone company exists solely to connect people to the numbers they dial. But because there are "natural monopolies" in phone service (because there are only so many mobile frequencies and underground cable space), they can abuse their position to extort additional payments from the services you want to talk to. And the more popular a service is, the better it is, the more the ISP stands to profit from this racket.

Mastering by John Taylor Williams: wryneckstudio@gmail.com

John Taylor Williams is a audiovisual and multimedia producer based in Washington, DC and the co-host of the Living Proof Brew Cast. Hear him wax poetic over a pint or two of beer by visiting livingproofbrewcast.com. In his free time he makes "Beer Jewelry" and "Odd Musical Furniture." He often "meditates while reading cookbooks."

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Podcast: Collective Action – the Magnificent Seven anti-troll business-model

Here's a reading (MP3) of a my November, 2013 Locus column, Collective Action, in which I propose an Internet-enabled "Magnificent Seven" business model for foiling corruption, especially copyright- and patent-trolling. In this model, victims of extortionists find each other on the Internet and pledge to divert a year's worth of "license fees" to a collective defense fund that will be used to invalidate a patent or prove that a controversial copyright has lapsed. The name comes from the classic film The Magnificent Seven (based, in turn, on Akira Kurosawa's Seven Samurai) in which villagers decide one year to take the money they'd normally give to the bandits, and turn it over to mercenaries who kill the bandits.

Why has Warner gotten away with its theft of ‘‘Happy Birthday’’ for so long? Because the interests of all the people who pay the license fee are diffused, and Warner’s interests are concentrated. For any one licensor, the rational course of action is paying Warner, rather than fighting in court. For Warner, the rational course is fighting in court, every time.

In this regard, Warner is in the same position as copyright and patent trolls: the interests of the troll are concentrated. Their optimal strategy is to fight back when pushed. But it’s the reverse for their victims: the best thing for them to do is to settle.

Collectively, though, the victims are always out more than the cost of a defense. That is, all the money made by a troll from a single stupid patent is much more than the cost of fighting to get the patent invalidated. All the money made by Warner on ‘‘Happy Birthday’’ dwarfs the expense of proving, in court, that they weren’t entitled to any of it.

The reason the victims don’t get together to fight back is that they don’t know each other and have no way to coordinate among each other. In economists’ jargon, they have a ‘‘collective action problem.’’

Mastering by John Taylor Williams: wryneckstudio@gmail.com

John Taylor Williams is a audiovisual and multimedia producer based in Washington, DC and the co-host of the Living Proof Brew Cast. Hear him wax poetic over a pint or two of beer by visiting livingproofbrewcast.com. In his free time he makes "Beer Jewelry" and "Odd Musical Furniture." He often "meditates while reading cookbooks."

MP3


Jake Appelbaum reads his Homeland afterword, with bonus Atari Teenage Riot vocoder mix

Two of my friends contributed afterwords to my novel Homeland: Aaron Swartz and Jacob Appelbaum. In this outtake from the independently produced Homeland audiobook (which you can get for the next week exclusively through the Humble Ebook Bundle), Jake reads his afterword at The Hellish Vortex Studio in Berlin, where he is in exile after several harrowing adventures at the US border. Hellish Vortex is run by Alec Empire, founding member of Atari Teenage Riot. Alec recorded this clip (MP3), and also mixed an alternate version.

Originally Jake had intended for his afterword to be anonymous (I didn't understand this at the time, and there was no harm done!). In keeping with this, Alec mixed this vocoder edition (MP3), that is pretty awesome.

Humble Ebook Bundle


Podcast: What happens with digital rights management in the real world?

What happens with digital rights management in the real world?
Podcast: What happens with digital rights management in the real world?

Here's a reading (MP3) of a recent Guardian column, What happens with digital rights management in the real world where I attempt to explain the technological realpolitik of DRM, which has nothing much to do with copyright, and everything to do with Internet security.

The entertainment industry calls DRM "security" software, because it makes them secure from their customers. Security is not a matter of abstract absolutes, it requires a context. You can't be "secure," generally -- you can only be secure from some risk. For example, having food makes you secure from hunger, but puts you at risk from obesity-related illness.

DRM is designed on the presumption that users don't want it, and if they could turn it off, they would. You only need DRM to stop users from doing things they're trying to do and want to do. If the thing the DRM restricts is something no one wants to do anyway, you don't need the DRM. You don't need a lock on a door that no one ever wants to open.

DRM assumes that the computer's owner is its adversary. For DRM to work, there has to be no obvious way to remove, interrupt or fool it. For DRM to work, it has to reside in a computer whose operating system is designed to obfuscate some of its files and processes: to deliberately hoodwink the computer's owner about what the computer is doing. If you ask your computer to list all the running programs, it has to hide the DRM program from you. If you ask it to show you the files, it has to hide the DRM files from you. Anything less and you, as the computer's owner, would kill the program and delete its associated files at the first sign of trouble.

An increase in the security of the companies you buy your media from means a decrease in your own security. When your computer is designed to treat you as an untrusted party, you are at serious risk: anyone who can put malicious software on your computer has only to take advantage of your computer's intentional capacity to disguise its operation from you in order to make it much harder for you to know when and how you've been compromised.

Mastering by John Taylor Williams: wryneckstudio@gmail.com

John Taylor Williams is a audiovisual and multimedia producer based in Washington, DC and the co-host of the Living Proof Brew Cast. Hear him wax poetic over a pint or two of beer by visiting livingproofbrewcast.com. In his free time he makes "Beer Jewelry" and "Odd Musical Furniture." He often "meditates while reading cookbooks."

MP3


Wil Wheaton reads chapter one of Homeland

Here's Wil Wheaton reading chapter one of my novel Homeland (here's the MP3, which I paid to independently produce for the third Humble Ebook Bundle, which runs for another eight days.

I've loved all of my audio adaptations, but Wil's was a dream come true for me. He really, really nailed it. What's more, because I produced this book independently, I can promise that it will never be sold with DRM, which makes it a rarity: Audible, which controls 90% of the market, insists on adding DRM to audiobooks even if the author and publisher object.

I hope you enjoy this as much as I did. The full, unabridged audiobook runs more than 12 hours -- thanks, Wil!

Humble Ebook Bundle


Wil Wheaton’s subconscious wants to “melt some camels” (?!)

When Wil Wheaton was reading the audiobook for my novel Homeland (exclusively available through the Humble Ebook Bundle for the next nine days!), I had the great pleasure of listening to the raw, unedited studio recordings before they were mastered. Together with editor John Taylor Williams, we collected some of the best outtakes, which I've been posting here all week. Here's the last one (MP3), in which Wil's subconscious supposes that Marcus Yallow has a hankering to "melt some camels."


Homeland audiobook: Wil Wheaton explains how Little Brother and Homeland make you technologically literate

The Humble Ebook Bundle continues to rock, raising hundreds of thousands of dollars for a bundle of great name-your-price ebooks, including Scott Westerfeld's Uglies, Steve Gould's Jumper, and Holly Black's Tithe. Also included in the bundle is an exclusive audiobook of my novel Homeland, read by Wil Wheaton.

I commissioned Wil to read the book -- it was pretty much the only way to get a DRM-free audio edition in the age of Audible -- and while he read, he had a series of conversations with the project's director Gabrielle di Cuir from LA's Skyboat Studios. In this clip (MP3), Wil explains how the discussions of crypto and technology in my novels serve as a spur to drive kids -- and grownups -- to research more about security and freedom.

You've got 11 more days to avail yourself of the Humble Ebook Bundle!


Homeland audiobook behind the scenes: Wil Wheaton explains his cameo to the director

The Humble Ebook Bundle is going great guns, with a collection of recent and classic books from both indie and major publishers, all DRM-free, on a name-your-price basis. Included in the bundle is an exclusive audio adaptation of my novel Homeland, read by Wil Wheaton, who also appears as a character in the novel.

When Wil got to the part where the protagonist, Marcus, meets "him" in the story, he kind of lost it, cracking up as he read Marcus's breathless (and thoroughly deserved!) praise of Wil.

Here's audio (MP3) of Wil explaining the context of the scene to Gabrielle de Cuir, the director who worked with Wil on his reading.

Listening to the raw daily studio sessions in February was a great treat, and I hope these outtakes give you a sense of some of that behind-the-scene action.

You've got 12 more days to score the Humble Ebook Bundle, which includes Steven Gould's Jumper, Holly Black's Tithe, Scott Westerfeld's Uglies, Wil Wheaton's The Happiest Days of Our Lives, and the audio adaptation of Homeland, read by Wil!


Wil Wheaton has a surreal moment reading the Homeland audiobook

As mentioned yesterday, the DRM-free, independent audiobook of my novel Homeland is available from the Humble Bundle for the next two weeks, along with a collection of brilliant science fiction and fantasy from authors ranging from Scott Westerfeld to Holly Black.

I commissioned the audiobook for the project, and paid Wil Wheaton to read it at the Skyboat Studio in Los Angeles, for mastering by John Taylor Williams in DC. If you've read the book, you'll know that Wil has a cameo in the story, early on, and when he read that passage, he couldn't help but crack up. Gabrielle de Cuir, the talented director, made sure we captured that audio, and here's your chance to hear it (MP3).

Wil's reading is amazing, and it was such a pleasure to listen to the roughs as they came in from the studio. There are a couple more of these funny moments I'll be publishing this week, so watch this space!

Humble Bundle, featuring the DRM-free audio edition of Homeland


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