The new exemptions are a major win for the right to repair movement and give consumers wide latitude to legally repair the devices they own.
The Librarian of Congress and US Copyright Office just proposed new rules that will give consumers and independent repair experts wide latitude to legally hack embedded software on their devices in order to repair or maintain them. This exemption to copyright law will apply to smartphones, tractors, cars, smart home appliances, and many other devices.
The move is a landmark win for the “right to repair” movement; essentially, the federal government has ruled that consumers and repair professionals have the right to legally hack the firmware of “lawfully acquired” devices for the “maintenance” and “repair” of that device. Previously, it was legal to hack tractor firmware for the purposes of repair; it is now legal to hack many consumer electronics.
Specifically, it allows breaking digital rights management (DRM) and embedded software locks for “the maintenance of a device or system … in order to make it work in accordance with its original specifications” or for “the repair of a device or system … to a state of working in accordance with its original specifications.”
Opinion: The fact that voter information is left on devices, unencrypted, that are then sold on the open market is malpractice.
IN 2016, I bought two voting machines online for less than $100 apiece. I didn’t even have to search the dark web. I found them on eBay.
Surely, I thought, these machines would have strict guidelines for lifecycle control like other sensitive equipment, like medical devices. I was wrong. I was able to purchase a pair of direct-recording electronic voting machines and have them delivered to my home in just a few days. I did this again just a few months ago. Alarmingly, they are still available to buy online.
If getting voting machines delivered to my door was shockingly easy, getting inside them proved to be simpler still. The tamper-proof screws didn’t work, all the computing equipment was still intact, and the hard drives had not been wiped. The information I found on the drives, including candidates, precincts, and the number of votes cast on the machine, were not encrypted. Worse, the “Property Of” government labels were still attached, meaning someone had sold government property filled with voter information and location data online, at a low cost, with no consequences. It would be the equivalent of buying a surplus police car with the logos still on it.
A 4chan poster may have solved part of a very tricky math problem that mathematicians have been working on for at least 25 years. The user was just trying to figure out the most efficient way to watch episodes of a nonlinear anime series, but the result has generated considerable interest from mathematicians around the world who have no way to identify the anonymous user.
Yesterday, Robin Houston, a computer scientist and mathematician tweeted about the bizarre intersection of 4chan and mathematics, inadvertently setting off a wave of public interest in the story. Within hours of his tweet, his phone was vibrating constantly. “It started to go mad,” he says. “My phone started going crazy.”
The 4chan part of this saga began on September 17th, 2011, when a poster posed a question: if you wanted to watch 14 episodes of the anime The Melancholy of Haruhi Suzumiya in every possible order, what’s the shortest string of episodes you’d need to watch?
There are 14 episodes in the first season of Haruhi, a 2006 anime based on a series of Japanese light novels. The episodes, which feature time travel and are otherwise chronologically challenging for the viewer, originally aired in a nonlinear order. When the series went to DVD, the episodes were rearranged, and it’s become something of an obsession for fans to rewatch the series over and over again, going through as many chronologies as possible.
An anonymous poster figured out one possible way to solve to the 4chan problem, satisfying the more mathematically inclined Haruhi fans. But in the process, they also helped puzzle out an issue that mathematicians have been working on since 1993. The anonymously authored proof (which was recently reposted on a Fandom wiki) is currently the most elegant solution to part of a mathematical problem involving something called superpermutations. It’s an enigma that goes well beyond anime.
In mathematics, a permutation is the order of a set of numbers. In anime terms, one permutation of Haruhi would be watching all 14 episodes in the order that they aired. But what if you’re a Haruhi superfan and watching the season once isn’t enough for you? In that case, you might be interested in a superpermutation, or all of the possible permutations of a set strung together. Think of it as the ultimate Haruhi marathon.
The branch of math that deals with permutations and superpermutations is called combinatorics. It doesn’t require years of study to be good at it, either. “It’s more accessible to amateur and casual mathematicians,” Houston says.
The poster’s anonymity doesn’t invalidate the solution for the mathematicians. “What’s beautiful about mathematics is that it’s a proof that starts with your hypothesis and leads to your conclusion,” Jay Pantone, a mathematician at Marquette University says. “You have to convince a skeptical reader that you’re correct. That doesn’t rely on your identity being known.”