U.S. Copyright Office expands copyright exemptions for fair use, security research and other activities

The Digital Millennium Copyright Act prohibited bypassing copyright protection systems thwarting many activities normally considered lawful such as “fair use”, use of snippets for education and critique, and investigations by computer security researchers.

The U.S. Copyright Office in the Library of Congress has issued a final rule clarifying (and expanding) exemptions for permissible activities.

See: Exemption to Prohibition on Circumvention of Copyright Protection Systems for Access Control Technologies – Final Rule

AOPA reports that the FAA is expected to charge fees to fly #drones #quadcopters #modelaircraft

The fees would be used to pay for the traffic management system the FAA is tasked with implementing.

the new law directs the FAA and Government Accountability Office to study how the federal government could raise money to pay for drone-related services, including a future unmanned aircraft system traffic management (UTM) program that will be a key to facilitating large-scale use of unmanned aircraft for package delivery and other operations beyond visual line of sight (BVLOS).

Says the government is to complete a study within 6 months on how to pay for all this.

The FAA is also ordered to define a beacon identification/transponder system for all drones:

Section 372 requires the FAA to establish a remote detection and identification program that law enforcement can use to track drones that violate regulations, and submit annual reports to Congress detailing drone transgressions such as flying too close to airports or inside of restricted airspace.

Source: Drone fees, new rules expected – AOPA

Hopefully these new regulations will not apply to model aircraft flown at authorized model aircraft airfields, nor in Class G airspace (unregulated airspace).

It seems likely these future rules will be applied to most airspace around cities. The costs of model aircraft flying will certainly head up if it becomes necessary to pay for air traffic control services, plus the costs of transponders (if they can even be retrofitted to existing model aircraft) and possibly related communication links (some transponder proposals have the aircraft linked to your smart phone which then ties into the ATC traffic management system-assuming phone service is available). Hopefully sufficient areas will be exempt in order to allow the long standing model aircraft community activities to continue.

Bloomberg’s “hacked” Supermicro server boards article comes under fire

We thoroughly evaluate the claims made by Bloomberg in their Supermicro China tampering stories and found them likely impossible or implausible at best. We take stock of sources and discuss the next steps calling for formal SEC and shareholder investigations of Bloomberg.

Source: Investigating Implausible Bloomberg Supermicro Stories

Apple and Amazon, both named as allegedly using the allegedly hacked servers, have denied the Bloomberg accusations. Apple has called for Bloomberg to retract the article. The U.S. Department of Homeland Security issued a statement appearing to agree with Apple.

The Bloomberg article, as noted in the linked story, appears to have numerous technical inaccuracies.

ACA, Medicare-for-All, Single Payer, Health Insurance and related topics

Most everything we think we know about the Affordable Care Act is probably wrong, owing to a combination of propaganda and abysmally poor news reporting on the subject. Starting in 2016, I began researching why insurance premiums were climbing so rapidly in the non-subsidized individual market. Our own premiums rose by +167% (about 2.7 times higher) in 4 years, before we had to drop out of the ACA markets. For 2018, insuring ourselves and our youngest daughter, who is in grad school, would have cost almost $24,000/year for a bare bones, basically catastrophic “Silver” insurance plan with high deductibles.

What happened? My paper goes in to all the details but here are some highlights:

  • All of the very high cost, high risk patients were merged into the small individual market risk pools. As of 2017, all of their high costs is shared exclusively with the other members of the small individual market pools – consequently, premiums skyrocketed.
  • Some persons receive subsidies to lower their monthly costs. The subsidy cut off level has no relation to actual insurance prices. The level is set by the regional poverty level whereas insurance rates are determined by pool risk, individual age and geographic location. There is no relationship between the subsidy cut off level and the price of insurance. This leads to bizarre situations where in several cities across the U.S., an age 64 married couple earning $65,000 per year is above the subsidy cut off level, and hence, receives no subsidy assistance – but their cost of a Silver plan is over $50,000 per year (see paper for details).
  • All health care market participants have engaged in acquisitions and mergers to give themselves greater market pricing power. This includes hospitals buying medical clinics, drug companies buying each other, retail pharmacy changes buying other chains and even insurance companies and more. Everyone has increased their pricing power except for individual consumers. The ACA, as implemented, prohibited individuals from forming groups to achieve volume pricing discounts. Literally everyone else merged to strengthen their market positions – except for individuals.
  • A big surprise – most ACA policies checked provide no coverage for hospitalization or surgery while traveling outside one’s narrow network of medical providers, which is typically an area as small as a few counties (see paper for details). Literally, the ACA leaves people without critical insurance protection while traveling in the United States.
  • The ACA actually does have a pre-existing condition exclusion, but in a different form and name. See the paper for a description of the types of pre-existing condition exclusions. The ACA implements a waiting period for certain pre-existing conditions. If you have no insurance in January but are diagnosed with cancer on February 1, you will have to wait 11 months before you can sign up for insurance. See the paper for details. Its a pre-existing condition exclusion in a different form.
  • Medicare-for-All has almost nothing in common with Medicare, other than the name. Similarly, everyone has different ideas as to what single payer means. Consequently, there is no coherent and workable proposal at this time.

Clearly we need to solve these problems. Medicare itself goes bankrupt in 2026 per the 2018 forecasts. My paper contains many pages of proposed solutions, some of which were adopted by my state, Oregon. Various drafts of the paper were read by state legislators, state health agency staff, insurance and health care industry staff.

Unfortunately, I learned most politicians do not want to listen to ideas on solving real problems and prefer to ram their ideologically preferred solution (whether it works or not) on to others. Consequently, at this point, I maintain this paper for my own records.

I have posted this paper here so that it can be indexed by the Internet search engines. Hopefully others will find it of interest.

ACA Individual Market (PDF) – about 50 pages

Keywords: Affordable Care Act, ACA, ObamaCare, Health Insurance, Premiums, Prices, Cost, Medicare, Medicare-for-All, Single payer, insurance risk, risk pools, individual, group

FAA’s Committee Report on ID and Tracking of #drones, may be even kites?

This report was issued in September 2017 as a set of “Recommendations Final Report” as to what the FAA ought to do about remote identification of drones, including model aircraft.

Source: UAS ID ARC Final Report with Appendices.pdf

Their report proposes that UAS be exempt from the remote ID requirement if the UAS is “operated within visual line of sight of the remote pilot and is not designed to have the capability of flying beyond 400′ of the remote pilot”.

However, any UAS that can autonomously navigate from one point to another without direct piloting from the operate, or which could be operated at greater than 400′ would require remote identification.

The 400′ limitation is problematic in that radio signals do just stop at a specific distance but gradually decrease in strength. In other to reliability operate a craft at 400 feet distance, the transmitter signals must be sufficiently strong through out the entire circle of the operator. This means that such a signal will, in fact, be usable at times beyond 400′. Consequently, this 400′ rule would likely mean that aircraft could be safely operated within a much smaller circle of as little as 200′ to 300′. To illustrate the difficulty of this, our model aircraft flying club has a paved runway that is 450′ long.

Most all of the popular quadcopters such as those made by Yuneec, DJI, and even some of the toy-class quadcopters made by MJX (Bugs 5W for example) have autonomous and return to home capabilities. Thus, to be legal in the FAA’s future world of remote ID, these devices would require a remote ID transponder. The report does also recommend that the FAA include a waiver mechanism, which might enable grandfathering of some existing UAS craft. The report also suggests that safety features like”return to home” be considered for an exemption to the remote ID requirement.

Products manufactured with built-in remote ID would be required to prohibit disabling the remote ID.

The remote ID would likely require transmission of identification, location and speed of movement evey one second during flight. This could have significant ramifications for battery life and payload of UAS.

The proposal for remote ID envisions two kinds of remote ID transmissions:

  • Direct broadcast to other local aircraft or law enforcement on the ground.
  • Network broadcast. In this form, the ID must be transmitted through a network, such as a cellular network, or from the aircraft to a cellular phone that links into the cellular network. (How this would work outside of cellular phone coverage is not explained.)

The above chart identifies their general concept.

Tier 0 – limited to 400′ craft not having autonomous capabilities

Tier 1 – Remote ID required, may require either Direct Broadcast or Network Broadcast. When conducted in controlled airspace, all flights would require filing of a flight plan and receiving authorization before flight. Note that most of the U.S. population living in cities and metro areas will be within the boundaries of Class B, C or D airspace where this would be required.

Tier 2 – Part 107 operations above 400′ (in other words, not hobbyist flights) or in controlled airspace or operating over people would require both Direct Broadcast and Network Broadcast capability.

Tier 3 – Advanced drones weighing more than 55 pounds, operating beyond line of sight would be treated as regular aircraft operations and all that implies.

The recommendation report suggests that all UAS users (including hobbyists and sport flyers) “may wish to voluntarily share the mission type by loading into the database that public officials could access during their response to an event. This information (along with route data…) would help public safety officials understand the nature of a UAS operation and assist in anticipating flight behavior”.

While filing a flight plan would be voluntary (and likely cost a fee), the alternative is that law enforcement, under the new law, can see any quadcopter as a “credible threat” and shoot it down. In other words, this is voluntary only if you don’t care if your quadcopter may be shot down because lack of a flight plan makes it a “credible threat”.

For flight in controlled airspace (which as noted, is where most everyone lives), remote ID, flight plans and tracking would be a requirement. In conjunction with this, the report foresees and integration of remote ID and tracking with a Universal Traffic Management (UTM) system – basically air traffic control on steroids. The report also foresees the Federal government creating a long term database of all UAS flights, based on their tracking data.

The FAA has not yet issued a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking. However, this preliminary “final report” specifies the starting point for the FAA’s NPRM.

Another aspect is cost:

  • Cost of devices
  • Cost of network access
  • Cost of network services (issuance of unique UAS ID, real-time tracking database, other services).

It seems likely that the potential costs of flying UAS, and model aircraft outside of approved flying fields, will likely be so high as to discourage most UAS flights but any one other than a commercial operation. This may, in fact, be the goal, as a way of clearing the airspace for commercial users.

Rupprecht Law summarizes the cost issue this way based on the 2018 FAA Reauthorization Act, which has been signed into law:

User fees for drones? Tells the Comptroller General of the United States to do a study on appropriate fee mechanisms to recover the costs of “the regulation and safety oversight of unmanned aircraft and unmanned aircraft systems” and “the provision of air navigation services to unmanned aircraft and unmanned aircraft systems.” Does this mean having unmanned aircraft flyers pay for UTM?

A sequence of FAA rule makings since 2001 largely eliminated the Part 103 ultralight aircraft scene by making it nearly impossible to obtain two-seater training in an ultralight aircraft. This was done because of Homeland Security’s fear that ultralights could be used for some sort of terror operations. Through clever rulemaking, the FAA basically snuck a series of rules into existence that de facto eliminated most ultralight training.

My suspicion is that Homeland Security, especially, would like to largely eliminate the operation of small model aircraft by the general public. Politically, they cannot quite do that. But they can, working with the FAA, push through a set of rules that will confine model aircraft to authorized flying fields, or requiring commercial licenses (Part 107) and pricey remote ID and network services for all other flights.

Hopefully they will continue to allow flights in mostly rural Class G airspace. However, the recent FAA Reauthorization Bill permits the FAA to regulate toy quadcopters even in Class G airspace.

And by the way, yes, the new law gives the FAA Reauthorization Act gives the FAA permission to regulate children’s kites with this very general definition of model aircraft:

5) MODEL AIRCRAFT.—the term ‘model aircraft’ means an unmanned aircraft that is—

“(A) capable of sustained flight in the atmosphere;

“(B) flown within visual line of sight of the person operating the aircraft; and

“(C) flown for hobby or recreational purposes.

Since the FAA may now regulate “model aircraft”, and kites fall within the definition, kites will now be regulated by the FAA. This also likely means you will not be allowed to fly a kite inside a national park – as all unmanned aerial systems craft are already banned inside all national parks and Congress has just declared kites as a form of unmanned aircraft. Good grief.

#Google #Pixel Pixel 2 phone battery drain problem after #Android 9 Pie update #Android9

As widely reported, Google’s Android 9 Pie update to their Pixel phones killed battery life on the phones. This affects both Pixel and Pixel 2 phones.

A typical scenario is the phone loses up to 50% of its battery capacity in 5-8 hours, even when the phone is hardly used at all.

I found that if I turn off Wi-Fi, then battery life is back to normal. That is, in the same scenario, the battery has lost just 7% of its capacity with 93% battery capacity remaining.

Source: [Updated] Massive battery drain on Pixel/Pixel 2 after Android 9 Pie, users say – PiunikaWeb

Google was made aware of the problem at least by the end of August as shown on their Issue Tracker, but no word yet on any fix to this serious Android defect.