Huge Smartphones Will Be Big In 2015—We Don’t Have Much Of A Choice

Huge Smartphones Will Be Big In 2015—We Don’t Have Much Of A Choice
Let’s talk about the present and future of phablets.
Dec 31 2014

ReadWritePredict is a look ahead at the technology trends and companies that will shape the coming year. 

According to a report released Monday from analytics firm Flurry, people went nuts for phablets in general—and Apple’s gizmos in particular—over the holiday season.

The report revealed that more than half of new devices activated over Christmas week belonged to Apple, at 51%, while Samsung and Nokia nabbed just 18% and 6%, respectively. Flurry also noted that the trend toward large “phablet” phones heated up, from 3% of devices two years ago to 13% this year.

On the surface, the numbers seem to indicate consumers’ growing obsession for phablets. But it’s a backward look that only tells half the story. To understand what that breakdown means and how it may affect the upcoming year in mobile, you have to take into account a few other details.

“For every Samsung devices [sic] that was activated, Apple activated 2.9 devices,” Flurry wrote. “For every Microsoft Lumia device activated, Apple activated 8.8 devices.” The firm also states that Christmas 2014 “saw a big jump in the number of phablets activated.”

That’s a notable outcome in a holiday season that saw “flat” electronics sales overall. According to MasterCard’s holiday spending report, consumer sentiment is shifting away from buying goods to purchasing “experiences.” Any gadget that can stand out in such a dull retail environment must offer something consumers really want—like a huge screen. 

This year marks Apple’s entry into the phablet market, so it’s tempting to chalk up the company’s success to finally satisfying people’s voracious appetite for massive phones. But there’s an inconvenient stumbling block to that narrative: Consumers barely had any other choice.

You can actually count the number of decent small phones with one hand. 

The following are five compact smartphones, perhaps the best of the lot, and all of them pale in comparison to their larger siblings. Yet, not even these offer a display smaller than 4.3 inches: 

• LG G2 Mini: 4.7 inch display
• Samsung Galaxy S5 Mini: 4.5 inch display
• HTC One Mini: 4.5 inch display
• Sony Xperia Z1 Compact: 4.3 inch display
• Sony Xperia Z3 Compact: 4.6 inch display


Re: Over 80 Percent of Dark-Web Visits Relate to Pedophilia, Study Finds

[Note:  This comment comes from friend David Reed.  DLH]

Date: December 31, 2014 at 12:15:56 EST
Subject: RE: Over 80 Percent of Dark-Web Visits Relate to Pedophilia, Study Finds

Maybe this is an unusual perspective, but by joining the Dark Web, you make yourself a target that is much easier to find by law enforcement, etc.

Yes, encryption is hard to break on the small scale, but that doesn’t mean it a good way to keep secrets on a large scale – tell enough people and a traitor will be found.

The same thing is true of Tor.  It requires two things: lots of innocent traffic to hide within (otherwise, there are quite easy ways to correlate who is who), and lots of people who are not “co-conspirators” in the illegal actions who are willing to protect you by operating access servers.

So if you are doing things commonly accepted as “bad” going to a “dark web” is just like moving to the same neighborhood in a city.  You end up making yourself far easier to find and more visible, and far easier to disrupt.

So IMO, this is mostly bad news for the bad guys.  They are doing exactly the wrong thing, and trusting an “absolute” that is just not true – there is no way with just technical means to ensure privacy.  Society grants you privacy, but you have to earn it.

All that said, this will be taken by some as evidence that privacy is only important for bad actors, and that all privacy-enhancing mechanisms are anti-social or worse.  That would be completely wrong – unless your definition of a good society is one where everything is subject to immediate criticism and criminalization at the whim of the government (whether majoritarian or totalitarian).

Over 80 Percent of Dark-Web Visits Relate to Pedophilia, Study Finds
Dec 30 2014

How ‘Ethical’ Hotel Chain Marriott Gouges Guests in the Name of Wi-Fi Security

How ‘Ethical’ Hotel Chain Marriott Gouges Guests in the Name of Wi-Fi Security
You’ve settled in, fired up your laptop—and not only is the $15-a-day hotel Internet slow as molasses, you can’t use your own hotspot for ‘security’ reasons. Why the policy is unlawful.
By Kyle Chayka
Dec 31 2014

The Marriott hotel chain swears it has to force guests to keep using its expensive, creaky Wi-Fi connections because the alternative, personal hotspots, would open the door to cybercrooks. Too bad the argument is, at best, half-true. Hotels’ Internet monopolies may be hurting our security rather than helping it.

A recent FCC investigation found Marriott’s blocking of personal Wi-Fi devices to be “unlawful”—kind of like the hotel charging you for towels and banning any you brought yourself.  

The hotelier’s practice “unjustifiably prevents consumers from enjoying services they have paid for and stymies the convenience and innovation associated with Wi-Fi Internet access,” the FCC added.

Marriott was forced to pay $600,000 in penalties for its Wi-Fi blocking—a black mark for a firm that advertises itself as “a 2014 World’s Most Ethical Company.” So now the company is asking the FCC to, in effect, reverse itself.

“Rogue wireless hotspots [c]an cause degraded service, insidious cyberattacks, and identity theft,” Marriott told the FCC in a recent petition.

But regulators may have a tough time accepting Marriott’s logic, in part because the hotelier’s assertion “conflates two different downsides implicated by Wi-Fi hotspots,” said Justin Brookman, the director of consumer privacy at the Center for Democracy and Technology.

Sure, there’s some chance of “diminished performance from Marriott’s own networks because of signal interference” from the hotspots, Brookman said. But that’s a different issue from “the potential for rogue hotspots set up by criminals to steal personal information from people who decide to log on to those networks.” And in either case, “the significant benefit from allowing Wi-Fi hotspots outweighs these concerns.”

In other words, Marriott is mixing up the quality of its product—the speed of hotel Internet—with its users’ basic security.

Which makes one wonder whether the hotel’s excuses are less about security than protecting the Internet monopoly on its premises. These days, charges for such service can range from $250 to $1,000 for conferences and rise to $20 daily for guests (one woman recently paid $366 for a day of high-speed Internet at a hotel in Cannes, according to The Telegraph), even for legendarily bad Wi-Fi.

Blocking hotspots is “just an economic move to control the connection so they can continue to command $15 per day for Wi-Fi and $10 per movie,” said Steven Sesar, the COO of FreedomPop, a wireless Internet provider. Sesar points out that hotels often block Netflix and other streaming platforms within the network so guests have no other option but to pay up.


Re: How ‘Ethical’ Hotel Chain Marriott Gouges Guests in the Name of Wi-Fi Security

[Note:  This comment comes from friend Bob Frankston.  DLH]

From: “Bob Frankston” <>
Date: December 31, 2014 at 10:17:41 EST
Subject: RE: [Dewayne-Net] How ‘Ethical’ Hotel Chain Marriott Gouges Guests in the Name of Wi-Fi Security

There’s also the annoying practice of blocking HDMI and VGA ports on in-room 
video screens (AKA televisions). With the advent of Chromecast, Microsoft’s 
Miracast device and other tools in addition to good old wired cables these 
screens are a powerful resource yet hotels seems to think of them as simply 
ways to sell movies.

As to Wi-Fi blocking – it isn’t enough to prohibit such practices. We need to 
get to the point that hotels and others have an obligation to provide 
connectivity as a basic amenity but that’s too much to ask the FCC for at the 

How ‘Ethical’ Hotel Chain Marriott Gouges Guests in the Name of Wi-Fi Security
You’ve settled in, fired up your laptop-and not only is the $15-a-day hotel 
Internet slow as molasses, you can’t use your own hotspot for ‘security’ 
reasons. Why the policy is unlawful.
By Kyle Chayka
Dec 31 2014

Re: Politician’s fingerprint reproduced using photos of her hands

Note:  This comment comes from friend Steve Schear.  DLH]

From: Steven Schear <>
Date: December 31, 2014 at 00:17:59 EST
Subject: Re: [Dewayne-Net] Politician’s fingerprint reproduced using photos of her hands

Biometrics are like usernames, you should be able to leave them in plain sight but they are stupidly used as passwords.
I suggest (as has Bruce Schneier for a decade), instead, fingerprints not be used for authentication.

Politician’s fingerprint reproduced using photos of her hands
At a Chaos Computer Club convention, hacker Starbug suggests notable people wear gloves.
By Megan Geuss
Dec 29 2014

Over 80 Percent of Dark-Web Visits Relate to Pedophilia, Study Finds

Over 80 Percent of Dark-Web Visits Relate to Pedophilia, Study Finds
Dec 30 2014

The mysterious corner of the Internet known as the Dark Web is designed to defy all attempts to identify its inhabitants. But one group of researchers has attempted to shed new light on what those users are doing under the cover of anonymity. Their findings indicate that an overwhelming majority of their traffic is driven by the Dark Web’s darkest activity: the sexual abuse of children.

At the Chaos Computer Congress in Hamburg, Germany today, University of Portsmouth computer science researcher Gareth Owen will present the results of a six-month probe of the web’s collection of Tor hidden services, which include the stealthy websites that make up the largest chunk of the Dark Web. The study paints an ugly portrait of that Internet underground: drug forums and contraband markets are the largest single category of sites hidden under Tor’s protection, but traffic to them is dwarfed by visits to child abuse sites. More than four out of five Tor hidden services site visits were to online destinations with pedophilia materials, according to Owen’s study. That’s over five times as many as any of the other categories of content that he and his researchers found in their Dark Web survey, such as gambling, bitcoin-related sites or anonymous whistle-blowing.

The researchers’ disturbing statistics could raise doubts among even the staunchest defenders of the Dark Web as a haven for privacy. “Before we did this study, it was certainly my view that the dark net is a good thing,” says Owen. “But it’s hampering the rights of children and creating a place where pedophiles can act with impunity.”

“Before we did this study, it was certainly my view that the dark net is a good thing.”

Precisely measuring anything on the Dark Web isn’t easy, and the study’s findings leave some room for dispute. The creators of Tor known as the Tor Project responded to a request for comment from WIRED with a list of alternative factors that could have skewed its results. Law enforcement and anti-abuse groups patrol pedophilia Dark Web sites to measure and track them, for instance, which can count as a “visit.” In some cases, hackers may have launched denial of service attacks against the sites with the aim of taking them offline with a flood of fraudulent visits. Unstable sites that frequently go offline might generate more visit counts. And sites visited through the tool Tor2Web, which is designed to make Tor hidden services more accessible to non-anonymous users, would be underrepresented. All those factors might artificially inflate the number of visits to child abuse sites measured by the University of Portsmouth researchers.1

“We do not know the cause of the high hit count [to child abuse sites] and cannot say with any certainty that it corresponds with humans,” Owen admitted in a response to the Tor Project shared with WIRED, adding that “caution is advised” when drawing conclusions about the study’s results.

Tor executive director Roger Dingledine followed up in a statement to WIRED pointing out that Tor hidden services represent only 2 percent of total traffic over Tor’s anonymizing network. He defended Tor hidden services’ privacy features. “There are important uses for hidden services, such as when human rights activists use them to access Facebook or to blog anonymously,” he wrote, referring to Facebook’s launch of its own hidden service in October. “These uses for hidden services are new and have great potential.”


2014 Kinda Sucked: A Look at Our Slow Descent Into Dystopia

2014 Kinda Sucked: A Look at Our Slow Descent Into Dystopia
Dec 31 2014

This year was, to put it as gently as possible, the devil’s playground. Oh sure, every year has its horrors and there are far worse annums behind us (the Crusades, anyone?), but 2014 proved to be a year in which long-festering social, environmental, and political problems were exposed in ways we have not seen in a very long time.

Thank social media, or globalization, or perhaps the recent explosion of hyper-accessible dystopian entertainment (though that is something of a chicken/egg scenario), but no single year  in recent memory has so closely resembled the exaggerated conditions employed as metaphorical warnings in dystopian sci-fi. In fact, a lot of dystopian fiction we saw this year is at the very least on par with everyday realities, if not tame by comparison.

Around the world, instances of palpable, immediate environmental catastrophe and brazen, systematic oppression proliferated at a terrifying rate, which underscores a position we and others have taken of late: With such nightmares growing more real each day, where does dystopian fiction end and reality begin?

2014 was pure, hot “garbage,” but let’s assess just which parts of it are scariest in terms of bleak satire coming to life, if only to ask if there is even a point to the fiction if the warnings it offers come too late to save us. If so, where can it go next? Here’s a look at 20 of the more dystopian things that happened in 2014—in both fiction and real life—and just how foreboding they really were.

Sochi Olympics: Stranger Than Fiction
Categories: Government propaganda, authoritarian protest-quashing, homophobia, absurd extravagance at the expense of the working class, über-surveillance
Dystopic Effect: Russia’s got a whole lot of problems that its government pretends don’t exist. Nowhere was this more apparent than the 2014 Winter Olympics, an obscenely lavish affair with billion-dollar stadiums, dancing bears, and creepy “selfie buildings.” Yet, despite the opulence, Russia provided almost comically awful press accommodations, stubbornly denied the existence of gays in the country in defending having banned them from the Games, and euthanized the city’s stray dogs. All of this came after more than two years of exploiting migrant workers and evicting residents to make room for Olympics facilities. If you had pitched this as a fiction series 10 years ago, you’d be Suzanne Collins rich by now.

The Sony Hack
Categories: Propaganda, government suppressed speech
Dystopic Effect: Sony pulls The Interview—Seth Rogen and James Franco’s satirical comedy about assassinating North Korean President Kim Jong-un—following online threats of 9/11-style attacks on theaters that show the film. We’d say that Hollywood kowtowing to a communist dictatorship 6,000 miles away sounds like the plot of a Charlie Chaplin dystopia, except Chaplin himself regretted The Dictator in retrospect. In a less dystopian turn, however, Sony eventually released the film to a handful of theaters as well as online and the movie did fairly well, considering.