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Domain Fronting Is Critical to the Open Web

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Domain Fronting Is Critical to the Open Web
steph May 04, 2018

 

In the past few weeks, Amazon and Google have both announced they’re pulling the plug on domain fronting, a crucial tool which helps our most vulnerable users get access to Tor when their countries don’t allow it. Users of Signal and Telegram are also affected by this block, and Access Now identified approximately a dozen “human rights-enabling technologies” which had relied on Google for this purpose.

Tor Browser protects against tracking, surveillance, and censorship, but not everyone around the world has the luxury to connect to use it. By default, Tor Browser makes all of its users look alike. However, it doesn't hide the fact you're connecting to Tor, an open network where anyone can get the list of relays. This network transparency has many benefits, but also has a downside: repressive governments and authorities can simply get the list of Tor relays and block them. We strongly oppose this censorship and believe everyone should have access to information on the open web. That’s why we developed pluggable transports to bypass censorship and connect to the Tor network. Watch this video to learn more about pluggable transports.

Domain fronting is a type of pluggable transport where Tor traffic appears to be talking to a third party that is hard to block, like Amazon or Google, when it is really talking to a Tor relay. An example of this is Tor’s “meek” pluggable transport, which is described here.

Google and Amazon have both shut down domain fronting, making meek no longer usable over those CDNs. As of this writing, Microsoft’s Azure cloud still seems to be working with meek.

For the time being, we are shifting to Microsoft’s Azure cloud. But we’ve heard that option will soon be shut down, as well.

Unfortunately, it doesn’t look like there is a fast fix. We were not given advance notice of these changes, so we are thinking hard on potential solutions to ensure our friends living in repressive regimes around the world can continue to access the open web.

 

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marmalade
18 days ago
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Sussex, UK
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Remembering Isao Takahata, the Japanese animator who made us see the world as children

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Studio Ghibli

The recent death of Studio Ghibli’s co-founder, producer and director Isao Takahata has prompted a proper recognition of his work, liberating it from the shadow of his more celebrated partner, the Pixar-championed Hayao Miyazaki who unlike Takahata, also designed and animated.

Isao Takahata, who died on April 5, was a co-founder of Studio Ghibli, Japan’s famous animation studio. EPA, CC BY-SA

But for animation scholars, critics and fans, Takahata’s films always had the same resonance, and foregrounded their own style and preoccupations. Takahata, unsung in many respects, defines the Ghibli style as much as Miyazaki; his grasp of the beauty of the mundane and his impressionistic apprehension of memory and feeling, is as memorable as Miyazaki’s epiphanies in flight.

Toei story

Both began their careers at the Toei Studio, Takahata directing the commercially unsuccessful Horusu, Prince of the Sun or The Little Norse Prince (1968), on which Miyazaki served as an animator. The pair then achieved success on the Takahata-directed and Miyazaki-designed Panda Kopanda films (1972/1973), as well as TV work, and the literary adaptations produced by Nippon Animation, including Heidi, A Girl of the Alps (1974).

Takahata directed features Chie the Brat (1981) and Gõshu the Cellist (1982), before joining Miyazaki to produce Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind (1984), along with long-time collaborators, composer Joe Hisaishi and producer Suzuki Toshio, with whom they went on to form Studio Ghibli.

Studio Ghibli/YouTube.

The studio’s manifesto was to focus on the artist auteur and produce high quality animation, a significant risk in the highly commercial Japanese market of the time. Within three years, Studio Ghibli had produced what have become two acknowledged masterpieces, Miyazaki’s My Neighbour Totoro (1988) and Takahata’s Grave of the Fireflies (1988), the latter the product of Takahata’s personal convictions as an anti-war activist.

An adaptation of a short story by Akiyuki Nosaka, the film is informed by Takahata’s own wartime memories in Okayama as he tells the tale of an orphaned brother and sister, Seita and Setsuko, as they try to survive after the allied fire-bombing of Kõbe, Japan, in World War II.

Hiyao Miyazaki, Takahata’s partner in animation at Studio Ghibli. EPA, CC BY-SA

Again, for those invested in animation as a form, it comes as no surprise that an animated film can deliver narratives of significant import and emotional affect. Though like Miyazaki, Takahata’s films feature children and childhood, and depict the childlike in such sensitive ways, they are never childish nor made only for a children’s audience. Rather they speak to the commonality of experience for adults and children, and use the emphases on everyday gesture that animation so powerfully amplifies – the cutting of fruit, a baby pursuing frogs, picking a flower, placing a comforting hand on a shoulder – to communicate universal themes and connections.

Japanese legend

I had the good fortune to meet Takahata at Ghibli, and, though he did not draw himself, he noted that drawing always suggests the hand that creates the image, and as such, the human feeling that resides within it, and might be shared. He argued, too, that drawing always reminded him of the resourcefulness, energy and vulnerability of the child, which he tried to show in his films.

Inspired initially by his studies of French literature in the 1950s, and particularly the poetry of Jacques Prévert, Takahata was enthused by an animated adaptation of Prévert’s Le Roi et l’Oiseau (1952) – The King and the Mockingbird – made by director Paul Grimault. Grimault’s lyrical style and colour palette were influential on Takahata’s more realistic cartoon aesthetic, but as his oeuvre developed, a sometimes more comic-strip approach, such as in My Neighbours the Yamadas (1999), or a calligraphic style, like The Tale of the Princess Kaguya (2013), emerged in telling a particular story.

Studio Ghibli/YouTube.

This calibration of form and subject enabled Takahata to adopt different tones and outlooks on what were essentially potentially tragic themes – suffering and death in Fireflies; pastoral utopia and urban drudgery in Only Yesterday (1991); environmental transformation in Pom Poko (1994); and dysfunctional families in the Yamadas.

Crucially, Takahata drew upon the distinctive language of expression available in animation, often using metamorphoses and visual metaphors to move seamlessly between comic vignettes and serious observations, often prompting heart-wrenching, bittersweet endings.

YouTube.

Takahata observed that he didn’t believe audiences watched live action films carefully, but that animation forced them to do so, because it produced reality more solidly than it actually is. This is surely never more affecting than in Setsuko’s demise in Fireflies and the poignancy of her question, “Why do fireflies have to die so soon?”

Takahata once perceived himself to be a failure because he had not made a film like Frederic Back’s The Man Who Planted Trees (1986), with its vivid commitment to human endeavour and the power of nature. But his own legacy refutes this self doubt, offering stories of human aspiration, good humour, love and the belief in life, in the face of the world’s challenges.

Takahata’s masterpiece, Grave of The Fireflies, the story of two children surviving after the end of WWII. Studio Ghibli

As we wipe away our tears when watching Fireflies, we might hear the voice of Takahata himself, in the guise of a smiling man, who speaks to the children and says, “Beautiful day, in spite of it all …”

The Conversation

Paul Wells does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organisation that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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marmalade
22 days ago
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Sussex, UK
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The Mesmerizing Animation of Sinusoidal Waves in GIFs by Étienne Jacob

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24-year-old French student Étienne Jacob produces black and white GIFs that transform the curvature found in sinusoidal waves into a multitude of experimental forms. The animated spheres imitate the appearance of mutating microbes or fiery stars, yet tend to remain in a 2D plane. Jacob recently experimented with programming his GIFs to appear more 3D, like in the work below which features a black sphere fighting to keep its position in a strong current.

Jacob has published all of his animations to his Tumblr, Necessary Disorder since January 2017, and provides tutorials for how to create these GIFs on his blog. You can view more of the applied mathematics student’s work on his Twitter.

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marmalade
43 days ago
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Sussex, UK
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Theresa May's push 'to get on with it' means nothing while rent-a-bile Brexiteers rampage

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After several weeks of high-profile speeches by government ministers, the UK is now apparently ready to “get on with it”, nearly a year after triggering Article 50 to begin Brexit negotiations.

In a bizarre mix of failing to address key issues head on and yet still making concessions on just how close the future relationship of the UK to EU will be, Prime Minister Theresa May has proved something most of us in the sorry Brexit saga have known for a long time – that Brexit in fact does not mean Brexit at all. It means something really rather different.

The European Court of Justice, that previously terrible snatcher of sovereignty in the Brexiteers’ eyes, will continue to have some kind of jurisdiction in the UK. Cooperation with and access to the single market – while being “different in the future” – will remain a central part of the UK-EU relationship. “Tough decisions” will have to be made not just about just how the UK leaves, but also, by about how much the UK remains entangled with the European project.

All of this was framed of course as the PM’s attempt to “bring the country back together”. A noble aim indeed. But we should pause before we give May too much praise.

After all, as former prime minister John Major noted, the simple binary choice of in/out in response to an incredibly complex series of questions produced a vote in 2016 to leave based on just 37% of the electorate.

That this result is an expression of the democratic will of the people is incontestable. But the other great democratic fact of the 2016 referendum is this: that those who voted remain, and those who didn’t vote at all actually make up around 60% of the electorate. They therefore represent a majority that did not vote for Brexit.

No, this does not mean we have to immediately overturn the result, nor that we necessarily need a second referendum. But it does mean that May and the rest of Brexit camp cannot afford to ignore this fact for much longer. As movements to resist Brexit both inside and out of parliament gather strength, the continued sidelining of this many people will not hold sway forever.

Don’t forget about the negotiation

In the interim between the joint report that May signed in December on withdrawal, the EU has continued to be, well, the EU, by producing the first stab at a treaty on withdrawal.

The draft withdrawal agreement is a classic EU document – the condensing of complex political organisation and change into something approaching a legal document. And yet May has offered no real response to this. That’s because she knows there can be no real response to this that would not upset the hard Brexiteers in her party.

Enter a cabinet divided. EPA

But that is precisely what she will eventually have to do – respond to that document, formally and in legally realistic terms, and address the key issue of some kind of customs union that keeps Northern Ireland in line with the EU.

May is also perhaps beginning to realise that every simplistic Brexit promise and slogan that she has put out since becoming PM has been both entirely unrealistic and counter-productive. Her red lines, her talk of sabatours frustrating the will of the people – all of it solely aimed at appeasing the hard Brexiteers and cementing her grip on power – have served no interest other than her own in the UK or in the EU. Her apparently tough stance has failed to secure anything at the negotiating table.

Who’s getting on with it?

These are the realities May now faces, and understanding them helps explain the emollient tone of her latest speech. Despite not angering the hard Brexiteers, it did also manage to at least sound a note of compromise or conciliation.

One final word of caution though, as we reflect on this: it is all very well offering the hand of friendship, but for it to mean anything at all, it has to be the hand not just of May, but of the government and her cabinet.

Any message of cooperation is easily lost, we might say, if Boris Johnson is, during the same week as May’s speech, denigrating the seriousness of the Irish border situation, or if Michael Gove is wrongly suggesting the EU is holding the UK back from banning plastic straws.

May’s message is even less likely to get across if the rent-a-bile crowd of Brexiteers within her own party – Jacob Rees-Mogg, Iain Duncan-Smith, Peter Bone – are continued to be allowed to spread their hard Brexit message with abandon.

So yes, a softer tone was spotted, as the realities of Brexit really begin to bite. But there’s a long way yet to go in bringing back together a nation that May herself has contributed so much to dividing – doubly so if she continues to allow members of her government and party up carry on doing the same.

The Conversation

Andy Price does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article, and has disclosed no relevant affiliations beyond their academic appointment.

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marmalade
78 days ago
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It continues to amaze me that we are still going through with Brexit, regardless of the damage and the cost.
Sussex, UK
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Simple music-making for everyone

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We started Chrome Music Lab to make learning music more accessible to everyone through fun, hands-on experiments. And we’ve loved hearing from teachers who have been using it in exciting ways, like exploring music and its connections to science, math, art, dance, and more.


For this year’s Music in Our Schools Month, we’ve added a new experiment to the website called Song Maker. It’s a simple way for anyone to make a song, then share it with a link—no need to log in or make an account. Anyone can instantly hear what you made, and even riff on it to make their own song. It lives on the web, so you don’t need to install any apps to try it. And, it works across devices—phones, tablets, computers.

Check it out here and have fun making some music.
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marmalade
81 days ago
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Fun, esp for kids :)
Sussex, UK
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How to fix a broken heart | Guy Winch

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At some point in our lives, almost every one of us will have our heart broken. Imagine how different things would be if we paid more attention to this unique emotional pain. Psychologist Guy Winch reveals how recovering from heartbreak starts with a determination to fight our instincts to idealize and search for answers that aren't there -- and offers a toolkit on how to, eventually, move on. Our hearts might sometimes be broken, but we don't have to break with them.

Download video: http://feedproxy.google.com/~r/TEDTalks_video/~5/q5odN-tFM5A/GuyWinch_2017.mp4
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marmalade
104 days ago
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An interesting and entertaining TED talk.
Sussex, UK
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