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I was looking for a service just like this the other day.

Because I'm in Thailand, Paypal freezes my account regularly, and for CCs many places won't ship to a different address, let alone a foreign address because of the risk of CC fraud. Online shopping is set up to protect the consumer and so merchants are cautious and prefer to deal with the 90% low-risk transactions and turn away the 10% risky ones.

When you're in the 10% though - you want to just say - 'I trust you to ship. I'll take the risk. Here's the money. Ship it.'

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It's counterintuitive but Adobe should be working on a project like this.

A decent server side SWF->HTML5 would enable existing websites to offer the first class experience (the SWF) to Flash enabled browsers, and push a HTML5 conversion for non-Flash browsers (Apple mobile devices). It would shaft Apple (Why does this run so slow on the iPad?) and slow the move away from Flash (Adobe could still make a credible 'runs everywhere' argument).

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http://mashable.com/2011/03/08/adobe-wallaby/

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Wallaby is a feature of the IDE to publish as HTML5 - it doesn't seek to address all the SWF content that is already out there.

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I saw an old cleric at a funeral of one of the protesters killed in Egypt on AlJazeera. He spoke of how they had mocked him for his blue jeans(!) and his facebook. He begged forgiveness and said that he saw now how he had been leading the way. Moving stuff.

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The key mistake the author makes is to assert no-one will ever spend or sell bitcoin trying to secure greater future wealth. As a bubble grows, large holders find that that a larger and larger proportion of their wealth is tied up in a single asset and start to diversify that wealth into other assets. I assume this is already the cause for most of the bitcoins being sold on the market.

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Click to Flash is the ideal middle ground for mobile devices. Only load the Flash when the user explicitly requests. 90% of the time, the user won't notice the Flash missing, the other 10% it is available on request. That solves the issues of 1) Flash in the background draining the battery or exploiting security holes and 2) the annoying advertisements.

It's great to have Flash there when you need it. So many sites still have integral Flash content.

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That doesn't address the user experience when interacting with the apps written for desktop computers on a tablet, which was one of the core complaints.

The truth is that interacting with applications written for a different platform sucks. It sucks especially for Flash because Flash was generally used to build interactive applications that HTML/JavaScript couldn't. However, it isn't confined to Flash. I've had HTML5 apps that expected mouse/keyboard usage that couldn't be replicated on a tablet and they sucked, too.

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I'd rather have a poor user experience than a zero user experience.

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This will be bad for device manufacturers though. Many users will think "iPad with Flash still can't use lots of Flash" when many Flash sites depend on things such as mouseovers and other events that don't make sense on a touchscreen UI. We would know it's the site's fault, but it'll give iPad/Android/etc. a bad image.

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In practice, many user experiences have ready substitutes, so people would rather have a different, good user experience than any specific bad one.

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I agree (and I have no idea why you're being downvoted). I don't always need Flash on my phone, but in the situations where I do I'm really grateful to have it. And click-to-flash is the ideal way of handling this.

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Meta: He's being downvoted because people disagree with him, which is wrong. Downvoting should only be used for posts that don't contribute to the conversation. This is a valid discussion, even if you disagree with the assertion.

On to the actual point of the discussion. I disagree that click-to-flash is an "ideal" way of handling this. Is it pragmatic? Yes. Is it ideal? No way.

Click-to-flash is a kludge; plain and simple. This isn't Flash's fault though. It's laziness on the part of content producers. Maybe laziness is a bit unfair, but it stems from a desire to "build once, run anywhere". The internet graveyard has more than one resident whose stated goal was exactly that. The desire to "build once" is a cost concern. It's not cheap to build content for every platform in existence. Content producers aren't interested in platforms, they're interested in audiences. Relevant questions for content producers are:

* How many eyes are there on a given platform?

* What revenue can I expect to generate from those eyes?

If a content producer can move in to a new market (platform) at zero cost, they'll always take that deal. That's the deal that Flash promises. The trouble is, that's a false promise.

There's a terrible epidemic of myopia plaguing the industry. If you went to an "old school" media person and told them you wanted to take the content from a tri-fold brochure, scale it down, and mail it on a post card, they'd laugh you out of the room. Then they'd lecture you about how your message must fit the medium if you expect it to generate results. Sound familiar?

You can't simply cram Flash applications designed for a desktop on to a tablet and expect the transition to go well. Designing for a tablet is a change in medium that requires consideration from the outset. Anything less is a sub-par experience.

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Meta: Using Up/Down to express agreement and disagreement is fine. Its the HN way.

http://news.ycombinator.com/item?id=117171

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Meta Meta: Arguing over whether to use Down to express disagreement is the HN way.

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3 points

1. Most existing Flash content is designed for the keyboard and mouse. Even if they were written using JS/CSS etc the same user interface issues would exist. In other words the problems are with the initial UI design. Flash really should not be blamed here! The current versions of the Flash developer tools support multi-touch.

2. I disagree about the deal. Flash offers the ability to have content appear the same across different platforms with the same form factor. E.g. the same on a 10" android tablet or a 10" windows tablet. Given the platform battle currently taking place spreading your risk by not developing purely for one platform (E.g. webOS) makes a lot of sense.

3. Unless developers have really deep pockets, the choice often boils down to - select a multi-platform development environment and accept some technical compromises but spread your financial risk OR make a calculated gamble and develop purely for one platform and hopefully get an optimised user experience.

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I disagree that click-to-flash is an "ideal" way of handling this.

Personally, I wish I had click-to-flash on my desktop. Flash is so often used for intrusive ends, I'd rather it be sandboxed from the real web content. Of course, these days, HTML can be used for similar intrusive content, but it rarely is, so far.

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For Firefox, there's FlashBlock:

https://addons.mozilla.org/en-US/firefox/addon/flashblock/

which I can attest works wonderfully.

For Chrome, I believe there's a version of FlashBlock, and for Safari, www.clicktoflash.com looks good (I have not tried either of these though).

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Regarding 1) Flash on Android doesn't run in the background.

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I've had an iPhone since the original and there's been only 1 time I wish it had flash. Of course it was a restaurant website for their menu.

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You need to think a little bigger to properly understand his point.

Humankind is mis-allocating some of its most talented labour to what is essentially an arms race in financial market predictive algorithms. It provides some benefit for humankind - increased liquidity in markets, but the value of the marginal liquidity is small compared to the talent that is wasted.

Salman Khan is an excellent example - he left his job as a hedge fund analyst to start Khan Academy. How many new Khan Academies would we have if the incentives were right to have talented people working on useful projects instead of the financial arms race?

Sure, the incentives are right for an individual or country to specialize in financial markets. Think bigger - an alien looking at what we're doing here on planet earth would say we're wasting a lot of our talent on stuff that just re-arranges the pie instead of making it bigger.

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Trading algorithms is a minute portion of what a bank does. The primary function (and activity) of investment banks is to help clients raise money (via bonds issues, shares issues, etc). Some secondary functions include helping them insure against risks (e.g. with futures contracts), and acting as brokers for speculators (e.g. hedge funds), or as market makers to make the markets more liquid so that more trading happens.

I'm missing quite a few things, of course, but my point is: this "algorithmic trading arms race" that you mention is basically something like 1% of what the average investment bank does (and 0% of what retail banks do).

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Yes but the question is not whether the banking industry is justified in it's existence. But rather whether they provide a value to society that is equal to what they take out of it.

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They absolutely do. Focusing on investment banks (I assume you have no problem justifying the existence of retail banks and insurers, the other two giant topics in financial services), what they do is effectively make the allocation of capital more efficient.

Without efficient capital allocation, most enterprise becomes extremely difficult. Without banks, there would be no stock market. There would be no way for companies to raise large sums of money to grow faster. There would be no one keeping markets liquid, which would encourage people to stick their money under the mattress rather than invest it. There would be no way for startups to exit, and so there would be no VCs, and no angels either (or at least, much more limited ones, making maybe one or two investments to help out a friend). All of this would massively reduce the amount of capital available to work with, and decimate the business world.

Now, you might take the view that "you don't need capital to do business", but that's just a very limited viewpoint that applies in very narrow circumstances, like some small percentage of internet startups. Almost all businesses need capital to get started. There's a good reason why microloans are so successful - they provide capital that helps enterprise. Think of the banking system as an equivalent of microloans for people who need more than $100 (for example, because they need to design and sell new products, build new factories, buy stock, make strategic acquisitions, etc).

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Do you really believe that allocation of capital is in general so inefficient that it requires 10% (and rising) of GDP to be allocated correctly?

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I agree but I think it's a little more complicated.

The problem is that we we loosing developers to high paying jobs in the banking industry. I.e. not your average netbank developer but the developer who can develop for those 1% you talk about.

So the problem is that the developers in talk here are the talented ones that goes for those jobs within certain parts of the banking industry that certainly don't provide anything close to the value they extract from the market.

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Your argument only really stands if basically every single one of those programmers is Mark Zuckerberg, able to create a $50b company... I don't think that's a reasonable assumption.

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My argument is that the startup community is loosing good developers to a specific part of the banking industry which I fail to see provide much value other than to their bosses.

I have no problem with them making more money. I think it's obvious why they make the choices they do.

The problem is that the part of the banking world they go to. That part of the banking industry that can pay the high salaries aren't benefitting society.

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A good point - I was looking at things from a purely fiscal perspective, and trying to challenge the prevailing opinion in the UK that banks == bad, but you are right that they suck up a disproportionate amount of talent and skill.

I guess for many graduates the banks seem to offer the best answer to the risk/reward question.

The challenge is how to change that mindset, in a way which doesn't just lead to all the qants leaving the industry to build another social photo-sharing app :)

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Apple's number 1 priority is getting iTunes&cruft onto every computer their products touch. It won't be long before they put an end to this blasphemy.

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Apple's priority is to sell hardware. Spotify is simply another great app.

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You'd think it would be wouldn't you? It's not. It's all about iTunes for Apple.

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>Justice Tennent jailed Monks for 18 months, with the last 12 months of the sentence suspended on condition she be of good behaviour for three years. >She was ordered to repay Aurora $193,187.43.

This is a horrendous miscarriage of justice. 4 months internet access = approx $80.

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She committed a crime. This wasn't a civil suit.

Once again we see the phenomenon where technology makes everything easier, including criminal acts, resulting in shock and dismay when the consequences and penalties of those acts are not themselves mitigated by technology.

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Yes, she did, but I can't say that it merits 6 months in jail.

Charging $193,000 for what someone here estimated was about 90GB of data is, itself, highway robbery. But that's Telstra's fault, not the power company's.

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It might be highway robbery in the service model of iPhones downloading movies. That doesn't make it highway robbery in the context of access cards provisioned within the requirements and fee structure of a utility smart meter deployment. It does not all add up to the same thing.

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90GB of data was stolen - nobody is defending that. Some of us have trouble believing that 90GB of data is actually worth the $193,000 as determined by the Telstra contract.

The actual "damage" seems pretty small when compared to crimes which carry similar sentences. If Telstra had a fairer billing system, then a more appropriate sentence would have been more likely.

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You're right, it probably adds up to less. A utility company's meter likely doesn't demand the low latency that an iPhone user does. So, it's probably not even worth $80.

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I agree. This is robbery! Completely anti-consumer! No sensible consumer or business could have pay this kind of service charge. Telstra could have easily block access to any individual with excessive network activity. The judge should reject this bill and ask arbitrator to come up with reasonable payment plan. Automatically upgrade her to unlimited plan and then add a small penalty should be a reasonable resolution.

Law maker should ban telco from excessive charge, say more than $1000 a month, unless authorized by the customer.

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Basically what you're saying is that Telstra should come up with a product to support people who steal the SIM cards out of utility smart meters.

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And what you are saying is that there is no possibility that such a feature network-wide (Email to main account holder: "Your phone bill has risen above $1,000 this month. Please make sure that this is not accidental.") would be useful to anyone else, ever.

Which is funny, because it's more or less standard in the UK, and most of the EU.

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What phone? The devices being billed aren't phones. There are no "phone bills" involved here.

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As far as the phone company is concerned, I'm sure that they can break the charges down by SIM. They'd never have discovered which person was the culprit if they couldn't do that, after all.

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That is exactly what they did do in this case. Read the preceding comment carefully and you'll see that you've inadvertently shifted the goal posts; that comment suggests Telstra should be sending a warning to the person who stole the SIM card.

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It took four months to discover this. That tells me that the power company demanded an audit, rather than Telstra informing them of anything. This inference is also consistent with the other case I linked to previously in which someone got a huge bill from them.

Had Telstra informed the power company (not the thief!) it undoubtedly would have been caught earlier, when a much smaller sum had been stolen. Moreover, given that black hats can clone SIMs and such, one might think that consumers should be able to demand reasonable protection from thievery from their telecom provider.

Please note that although it's possible that they have a rather long billing period (e.g. they only got bills every few months), such notices would only be useful if they could occur within a billing period, so it still would have helped protect the power company from theft of services.

I have no idea how you managed to carefully read any of the comments and still confused the account holder (the power company) with the woman who misused the SIM card, whether you were reading my comments or those of nagrom.

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I cannot help but think that you are willfully misinterpreting my comment.

Substitute 'account' for 'phone' if you like. They can obviously break it down by SIM because otherwise they couldn't figure that this woman 'caused' these charges, right?

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This reminds me of a little adventure when I travelled to Malaysia for a sales call. It was terrible but funny (it involved a business partner dropping my USB HSDPA modem into his glass of water). A subplot of it was I let him use my modem while roaming. In the same afternoon, while I was having tea (I mean a meeting/discussion), I got a call from my carrier, on my main cell phone number, who asked if I was the one who used the service in the morning. I said yes and I asked how much it was. The answer was in the range of US$400.

I suppose they would have offered to suspend the line immediately if I had said no.

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This sort of thing also happens to people who do not steal SIM cards. It is all too common, sadly:

http://abclocal.go.com/wjrt/story?section=news/bizarre&i...

$22,000 bill because son's data use wasn't covered in family cell phone plan.

http://www.switched.com/2007/12/14/man-gets-slapped-with-85-...

$85,000 phone bill. "It turns out that he was being charged on a per-kilobyte basis because his unlimited browsing plan didn't cover using the phone as a modem. As a "goodwill" gesture, Bell Mobility has dropped the bill to measly $3,243."

Finally, here's one from Telstra:

http://www.blackberryforums.com.au/forums/general-bis-discus...

"I have recently signed my BB 8800 up on a Telstra $39.95/mth plan which I understood was for unlimited email and internet browsing. I got the shock of my life when I checked my data usage online and saw a bill for $250+ after only a couple of days. On examining further I note that I have not been charged for blackberry.net connections but heavily charged for wap.telstra."

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I do not accept the notion that these are remotely comparable situations.

I agree with you that b2c MNO fee structures are predatory.

I do not agree that the fee structure arranged between two giant corporations can be described as "predatory" when it happens to bite the ass of someone who breaks into their network and uses it to steal connectivity.

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> I do not accept the notion that these are remotely comparable situations.

So you don't think that the power company got screwed here? We both know that it's unlikely that some random woman is going to be able to pay back a sum like that.

Would it really be so reasonable to expect the phone company to do something to at least warn people, whether businesses or private citizens, who are suddenly racking up over a hundred thousand dollars in charges from one phone so that they can do something about the bill?

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"Warning! Our billing systems have detected that you may have inadvertently removed the SIM card from your power meter and plugged it into your mobile device. Please be aware that Enhanced Roaming Charges may apply to further usage."

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"Warning! Our billing system has detected that your phone bill will be over $10,000, which is two orders of magnitude higher than any previous billing data."

As I already pointed out, this has affected more people than just those who steal SIM cards. And they should have known that an absurd level of charges were being racked up by a single SIM, so it's not like the phone company couldn't tell that it was abnormal.

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The article did say at the end that they've put in measures to stop it happening again. Presumably something along the lines of monitoring usage per SIM. I would guess that it just didn't occur to the power company or Telstra that someone might steal the SIM and put it in their phone.

If I stole a SIM card and used it to download movies, I would fully expect to be liable for the cost of the data at whatever rate the SIM owner had agreed with the telco.

In this case the thief (or really the recipient of the stolen SIM) was unlucky that the data plan was a B2B contract designed for small quantities of data.

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In Australia, all the mobile phone and data plans have massive penalties for exceeding your quota by even small amounts. My provider (and I suspect, all the others) deliberately obfiscates both the billing details and the plan rules to make it practically impossible to see how close to your limit your are.

To avoid crippling surprises, people to upgrade to plans they really don't need.

In the banking industry, banks are not allowed to profit from penalty fees (just recoup their losses). I think a similar approach in telecoms would be a good thing.

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I say is telecom should not be allow to gouge consumers. They should not charge consumer an amount that is clearly not agreed upon.

If you have misconfigured an app on your phone and it run up $10,000 network charge in month. Will you hand over your $10,000 to the phone company? Do you think this is a fair charge?

Cap the telco off how much they can charge unless authorized. I think this is most fair for both party. Telco can cut off access, but no to gouge consumer.

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The person who rips the SIM card out of their smart meter and uses to download stuff off the Internet isn't a consumer.

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Indeed. They're talking about informing the power company that someone is misusing one of their SIMs.

You know, so that they can discover the theft a bit faster than they did in this case, where it took them from November 19, 2009 until February 9, 2010. A lot less would have been stolen from the power company were that the case.

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tptacek, in the scenario that I've construct, if you misconfigured an app that result in an astronomical bill, we you pay it without contest? Will you do it if you have to sell your house to pay off the phone company?

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Maybe highway robbery, but pretty standard in Australia - mobile phones are expensive here. As someone pointed out in another comment, Telstra's standard price for off plan data is $2/Mb (for a consumer mobile, not a b2b contract which is presumably what the power company had). For 90Gb of data that works out at $180,000, so pretty consistent with the reported cost.

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Indeed. In spite of living on roughly the other side of the planet from them, I've heard many complaints about Telstra.

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Let me pose this question.

If the damages were $2 and not $200,000 would you still think an 18 month sentence is justified ?

I would guess that most people would think not.

So the true cost of the damage is a significant factor in assessing the appropriate punishment

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I don't understand this argument. Neither 1 day nor 10,000 days in jail repays damages to the utility; meanwhile, neither 1% nor 100% of damages serves society's goal of deterring crime. What is the point you are trying to make? That people should either be punished for crimes, or required to repay damages?

From what I can tell, virtually every crime against property has a process for settling damages irrespective of the amount of time served in prison. "10-15 months in jail AND a fine not to exceed $50,000", and so on.

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The amount calculated as damages affects the kind of crime that it's categorized as though, which is why it's relevant. In the U.S. at least, if you cause $50 of damage, that's a different crime than if you cause $50,000 of damage, with different sentence ranges (same with theft, which has various categories based on dollar thresholds, and can actually switch it between a misdemeanor and felony).

That might not be the right way to do it, but it's the way it's currently done, anyway, which means that courts have to inquire into the "true" damages sustained in order to determine what crime the person should be charged with.

A solution could be not to take damages into account in cases like this, so the crime would just be "stealing a meter's SIM card and using it", which would be the same crime regardless of how much money that cost the utility.

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It doesn't look to me like the detention time involved here was computed from the damages. The two issues are orthogonal. We appear to agree on this point.

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They are not orthogonal. Amount of estimated damages differentiates between kinds of theft (petty larceny vs grand) and is pretty much directly used to calculate imprisonnement duration in hacking cases. Some 30000 USD/year, IIRC. That's why companies always inflate their damage reports. Severe abuse of justice for the defendant and the company risks pretty much nothing.

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Companies "always" inflate their damage reports... but in this instance, the number cited came directly from their upstream billing. Can you square that circle for me?

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In non-tech cases, my impression is that upstream billing isn't taken as solid proof of the amount of damage incurred. For example you might have a very expensive contract with a visits-your-house personal mechanic who you've agreed will be your exclusive car-repairer. Thus when you're hit in an accident, you automatically incur a large bill of $X, due to your pre-agreed subscription with the mechanic. But for either civil or criminal damage computation, a court would normally determine how much damage was caused by looking at what the repair cost would've been with a "normal" mechanic at prevailing rates instead.

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...meanwhile, neither 1% nor 100% of damages serves society's goal of deterring crime.

I would tend to disagree with this. Having to repay damages removes the benefit associated with the crime, so for ordinary sane people, it would act as a deterrent. In my opinion, jail is more appropriate for crimes where the criminal is likely to be an ongoing danger to society and no other option (probation, mandatory classes, etc.) would have the desired effect.

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It's not much of a deterrent if you only pay the damages (assuming a reasonable definition of damages, which apparently doesn't exist here). You have a nonzero chance of getting away with the crime, in which case you don't pay - so your expected return for the crime is higher than for not committing it. This is exactly the kind of thing that higher deterrents are supposed to prevent.

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I can understand being surprised, though - I can see how one would expect $100-$1000 (in actual damages, not deterrence), not ~$200 000. Theft is still theft, of course, but technology is a surprisingly powerful lever.

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You're right, and I often sound like I'm blaming people for being surprised. People are right to be surprised. It's a reason, among many others, to be wary of the impact technology has on our life.

"Surprisingly powerful lever for criminality" is as good a summation of my thoughts on this as any I've heard; thanks!

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Your rational argument would better apply, I think, to a black-hat hacker (say geohot, not totally blackhat but is a recent example) rather than poor, uneducated woman with bipolar disorder with a history of abuse.

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That's a smokescreen. You will not find many people on HN who who think sentencing shouldn't be modified due to mitigating factors. I certainly don't think that.

But the arguments on this thread aren't only about going easy on someone simply because they're poor. They're also about how it's "highway robbery" for someone to go to jail and pay six figures for stealing a SIM card.

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I think everybody here agrees that she committed a crime. The discussion is whether the punishment is fair or not.

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I'm sorry, I wasn't clear. I was accusing the commenter upthread of framing this as if it was a civil matter.

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MAYBE an energy company shouldn't use unlocked 3G cards to insecurely transmit data and allow anyone who gets their hands on a card to rack up $200k? Just saying.

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The judge was quite clear that the sentence wasn't about reparation, but about deterrence... http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Deterrence_(legal)

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I'd rather someone was deterring Telstra from levying such exorbitant charges in the first place than wasting my tax dollars locking someone up for such a minor crime.

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Exactly.

Assuming she had downloads running non-stop during the 4 months, at a maximum of 7 mbps (3g), she would have downloaded 8859 GB. With a $193000 bill, the "significant theft" was Telestra charging $22 per GB.

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Someone else looked up Telstra pricing and got an estimate of 90GB.

http://www.telstra.com.au/mobile/plans/phone_plan.html

They charge more like $2/MB. Sadly, Australia absolutely sucks in terms of internet access costs.

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I am sure the power company is far happier paying $22 per GB than $20 per month per meter.

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I'm getting very different numbers... I may be wrong though?

(7,000,000/8) = 875,000 bytes/s = 0.834 MB/s

0.834 * 60 * 60 * 24 = 72,057 MB/day

(EDIT: Tweaked numbers, had mistyped 0.834 as 0.844 — doesn't affect the point)

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Your number looks the same, 72GB/day = 8,859GB over 4 months.

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Right, sorry.

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I don't understand what's "minor" about this crime.

If theft of meter SIM cards became endemic, the utility and the MNO would have to spend millions or even tens of millions of dollars to deploy countermeasures. That spend is entirely deadweight loss that exists solely to mitigate bad actors.

Not subverting your power meter seems like a pretty reasonable clause in the social contract that enables us all to have (extraordinarily) cheap and convenient electrical power.

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It would have cost them far less if they had the foresight to consider the chances of it happening, or at least try and arrange it with Telstra, who's more than capable of doing so in a way that would mitigate abuse from the service?

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How? How would it have cost them less? That seems like a good question to answer preemptively if you're going to make that argument. And, while you answer it, keep a running tally in your head of roughly how much it would cost in (1) legal fees and (2) delayed deployment (which has a cost you can break out in $/hour based on continued needless truck rolls as only one example) to negotiate that with the MNO.

When you're finished, weigh that cost against the benefit of reducing the legal fees for criminals who steal service from your meters.

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>How? How would it have cost them less?

They could have arranged with Telstra to cut off service to any meter that billed over $X in a month.

In fact, that should have been an obvious step to make, because a meter that was sending too much data was probably buggy, which could mean the data it was sending was probably worthless. The engineers who failed to include the cutoff were insufficiently paranoid.

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What about meter diagnostics? "Cut off" means "cut off"; what if the utility needs the capability of remote snapshotting the memory or current firmware rev of a meter? (Having done multiple smart meter security review projects: this is not a crazy notion).

Yes, fellow geek, there will be some number that represents the maximum amount of bandwidth that might ever be used to diagnose a faulty meter. How much would it cost to figure that out? Again: weigh that against the business benefit of doing so.

The person who abused the meter SIM did not accidentally do so.

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Now that this has happened, and both the MNO and the power company are trying to prevent it happening again, that would suggest they are changing the service, and thus the lawyers will be called back in again to amend the service agreement accordingly. Ignoring the costs associated with both the potential extra PR costs in cleaning this up, the costs associated with IT or modification to meters either installed or otherwise, or the costs with the power company's representation during the court case I could imagine that this return visit by the lawyers wouldn't be put onto the MNO's bill entirely, nor would they be getting a discount compared to the smaller amount of time I assume it would take to define the preventative requirements as part of the agreement before it was finalised.

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I can only assume that the $22-per-gig plan doesn't actually exist on a consumer level. Instead, this is some bizarre charging agreement which works between Telstra and the electric company, specifically for smart meter applications (which presumably don't send all that much data). Nobody ever bothered to think about what would happen if the SIM were taken out and used elsewhere, though they really should have.

Since the electric company is already out of pocket for the $200K, and since it's not Telstra's fault (and hence Telstra shouldn't have to pay the $200K back either) I guess charging the woman the full $200K as a deterrent (assuming she can afford to pay it) isn't too bad.

It does sound like a pretty harsh sentence, but if she'd gotten away with a slap on the wrist imagine what would happen next -- everyone would be ripping apart their electricity meters to get cheap internet access.

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This discussion also strips out everything that complicates the agreements utilities have with MNOs to handle smart metering traffic. These boxes get deployed in massive huge waves, tens of thousands at a time, and require terms of service that are not typical for normal MNO customers.

It's simply not reasonable to compare the rates payed by a utility for always-on reliable backhaul from hundreds of thousands of meters to those payed by a single mobile phone customer for "download web pages" data service.

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The SIM plan used by the electric company might come from a contract that favors small amounts of data transfer. A meter probably won't use many kilobytes or megabytes per month. If I were such a company I'd try to negotiate for expensive $/byte ratio and very low if negligible monthly fee, knowing I will only ever transfer small amounts of data.

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What happens when one of your systems becomes buggy and starts using lots of data transfer? Oops!

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Then you learn a painful lesson about fixing your systems. But in that case, you're at fault, and are on the hook yourself.

Here? Not so much.

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To me the lesson would be that things break, and deals like this should probably include some sort of cushion. I'd be cautious of just banking on the fact that we'd never have to pick up a huge bandwidth bill because nothing would ever go wrong.

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4 months internet access = approx $80.

If the worst possible punishment for stealing something was that you had to pay back the cost of the item then the justice system would be doing a pretty piss-poor job of deterring theft.

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That may be, but they are claiming that $193k+ is the cost of what she took, which I doubt very much is the case.

If someone steals a fake piece of art from my house worth $80, can I turn around and claim that it was the original and therefore worth millions that should be repaid to me?

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No, you cannot claim that.

However, when a utility gets a bill from an MNO for $193k for services they contractually agreed to, and that bill is a result of a criminal action or a tort, it becomes easy to establish $193k as basis for damages in court.

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That contract could have been written to make them contractually liable for $75 trillion dollars. Following your logic, it would then be easy to establish $75 trillion dollars as a basis for damages.

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(In US law, at least) Clauses that impose "penalties" which are not directly rooted in liquidated damages are unenforceable.

This is not a case about a penalty clause; the damages here emerge straightforwardly from the MNO's usage contract with the utility. The thief didn't stumble across a landmine clause that said "parties agree theft of SIM card incurs $100,000 of damage"; instead, the thief continuously used a metered service that resulted in a 6-figure charge.

One imagines it would be possible to dispute a six-figure liquidated damages claim by arguing that the metered charge was devised in such as way as to deliberately create a penalty clause. My point here being, these things aren't so black and white as to be trivially adjudicated by geeks on a message board. But I think we all in the back of our heads realize that the fee structure for smart meter mobile data isn't an elaborate scam to entrap SIM card thieves.

So, no, your example doesn't work. Companies cannot simply write "you owe me a zillionty squillion dollars if you steal my stuff" and have that hold up in court.

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I wonder, however, if the power company will itself actually suffer $183,000 in damages. Every time I've heard of someone accidentally racking up insane charges like this, they've been able to negotiate it to something reasonable.

So I do believe that knowing the true damages, and not just the dollar figure specified by the contract, is relevant here.

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The power company is presumably already forking over a huge amount of money to Telstra every month for data. This one event would have been a spike, but not a crazy dominant one.

If you or I accidentally ran up $200K in charges due to somebody stealing our SIM then yes, we could probably negotiate it down. In a big-business-to-big-business context, though, Telstra is as likely as not to say "Hey look, that's what the contract says, you signed it, so suck it".

Without any information to the contrary, I'm willing to believe that if the court decided that the actual damages to the power company were $183,000, then the actual damages were $183,000.

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The two companies can write whatever they like in the contract between themselves. You seem to agree that the contract should be held to some standard of reasonableness where it is used to establish damages caused by some third party. You think 200K is reasonable. I do not.

The position you're advocating is that a contract between two private companies should be used to calculate damages for a criminal act. That's a very bad idea - it makes those companies legislators.

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Steal a loaf of bread. Is the shopkeeper you stole it from, who says the loaf costs $2.50, a "legislator"?

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If the court considers the value of the item and agrees with the valuation of the shopkeeper then no.

If the shopkeeper says the loaf of bread was worth $200K and the the court doesn't question the amount because the shopkeeper has been billed $200K for replacement of said loaf according to a contract with the bakery, the shopkeeper and the bakery have legislated the punishment for the crime.

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If I had a contract with a company that charged $193K to replace said $80 artwork - should I then be able to claim $193K damages?

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No, because that scenario isn't any different from the original scenario proposed.

The utility is in this case contractually obligated to pay those fees. The basis for damages here is straightforward.

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Besides, "eighty bucks" is a silly estimate anyway. Nobody in Australia will sell you unlimited 3G data for twenty bucks a month. If you think that's unfair compared to other countries, remember that Australia has a population density of two people per square kilometre, and that Telstra actually has a pretty darn good coverage in their 3G network (Optus and Vodafone are cheaper but can't be expected to work reliably outside major cities).

Somebody mentioned $22 a gig... well, the highest-data plan on http://www.telstra.com.au/mobile/browsing_packs.html is $69 for twelve gigs a month, with excess data charged at five cents a meg, or fifty dollars a gig. That sounds like a lot, but as we've said, the 3G network really isn't designed for individual customers doing terabytes of data per day... they clearly don't want you using 3G in that way.

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But isn't it likely that the meter owner might strike a deal for thousands of devices which each send a very minor bit of data once or four times a month, and be able to structure that contract a little differently?

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Most certainly. I'm just pointing out that $200,000 is, in fact, consistent with the prevailing market rates if you choose to download terabytes worth of data on your 3G modem.

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Agreed, some jail time is appropriate. Destroying her financially to "compensate" the victim for a hugely inflated loss isn't.

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We really don't know anything about this woman's financial situation apart from the fact that she's on a disability pension. A fine of $200K may not be "destroying her" financially. (Remember, this is Australia, where it's hard to buy a house for under a million dollars nowadays...)

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Here's the part that alarmed me:

> Justice Tennent said Monks destroyed the card when she realised it did not belong to Mr Freeman.

Yet she still hands down 6 months of jail, 12 months of suspended sentence, and almost $200,000 of fines. What?

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I don't think the judge believed her story. Besides, doesn't a jury get to decide her guilt?

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Not if she pleads guilty.

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So she's cool being part of his obvious movie piracy operation until she finds out he doesn't own the SIM card?

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Mr. Gordon Freeman?

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Gordon_Freeman

First thing I thought. She was being questioned, had to make up a name on the spot and immediately came up with the main character in Half Life.

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$193000 / 4 months

If she was downloading at max 3G speed 24-7, that's still $22 per GB.

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Well then she should have used a reasonable rate plan and only spent $80, instead of using someone else's plan and racking up hundreds of thousands of dollars of their money.

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She is a clueless, poor person. I agree she should be punished somehow, but this is a life devastating sentence, especially the $193K. How can you be so draconian?

If we want to follow the law to the letter we don't need judges, something like Watson would be more than adequate (and cheaper).

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If Aurora actually paid that 193k, then she should repay them for it. But it's not clear to me from the article that they did, and I can't really imagine that they did. If Aurora never paid that bill, she ought to be liable to Telstra for whatever she can get them to reduce the bill to.

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She is a clueless, poor person.

There's no indication that she's clueless or poor. A clueless person probably wouldn't have any use for the insane amount of data she downloaded. And a court probably wouldn't impose a $183,000 fine on a person who was both poor and disabled.

She's on a disability pension, but disability pensions aren't means-tested.

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Please read the sentence (http://www.supremecourt.tas.gov.au/cops/monks_k_m). Here's the judge's own description of her:

"You are 33 years old. You have one conviction for stealing in 2002. I accept it was probably a relatively minor matter because it was dealt with by way of a fine. Your upbringing was unstable in the extreme. You lived in the streets for most of your teenage years and became involved in drinking alcohol and drug taking. You have been diagnosed with depression and bi-polar disorder. You are socially isolated and spend long periods at home alone and accessing the Internet. You have no family support being largely estranged from parents and siblings. You are in receipt of a disability pension. You have incurred debts and have difficulty managing money. It is doubtful that you will ever repay the money stolen by your use of the card."

Evidently she spends a lot of time on the Internet, so she is not clueless in that sense, but from this description she doesn't sound very educated either.

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Did she know the Internet use was worth hundreds of thousands of dollars? It's unclear in the article.

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Strikes me as it shouldn't be a question of if she knew, but rather is several months of Internet access worth nearly $200k?

Taking dspillett's example, if what the victim claimed (and even believed) to be a priceless Stradivarius actually turned out to be a modern mass-produced instrument, it'd be deeply unfair to make the defendant pay as if it were.

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She almost certainly knew that she should not be using it. If I stole a priceless Stradivarius would I be punished any differently if in court I claimed to have thought it was just a cheap bit of wood with some strings attached?

The sentence does seem harsh to me too, but generally speaking ignorance is not an acceptable defence espscially when the ignorance is not knowing/caring about the scale of the offence rather than just being ignorant that it is an offence at all.

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If I stole a priceless Stradivarius would I be punished any differently if in court I claimed to have thought it was just a cheap bit of wood with some strings attached?

Quite possibly. Intent often matters, e.g. involuntary manslaughter vs murder.

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Actually, this is not true (at least in the US... not sure how it translates to other common law countries). Your mistake about the facts doesn't excuse you if you still knew you were committing a crime. (I'm having a hard time finding a concise source, but try googling "strict liability for grading").

As for murder, the penalties there do differ depending on your state of mind, but that's not an issue of mistake (you can't try to third-degree murder someone but mistakenly first-degree murder them).

Not to say I agree with the punishment in this case, though.

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I agree you can't try to 3rd-degree murder someone and accidentally 1st-degree murder them, but you can try to non-fatally injure someone and, due to being mistaken about the facts, end up killing them (e.g. because you were mistaken about the effects of a poison you used). In that case, you do indeed get convicted of a lesser crime, if the court/jury believe you.

In the theft and criminal damages context, you could have an analog, though we don't currently, where being judged guilty of one of the more major theft or damages offenses (like "theft over $X") requires an intent to cause that level of theft or damages. If you meant to cause $50 in damages and actually caused $50k, that could be a lesser offense than if you meant to cause $50k in damages. You'd be found guilty of essentially "damage over $X but with intent to only cause damage under $X", the way 3rd-degree murder and manslaughter are lesser offenses due to the lack of intent to cause death, even when there was intent to violently injure non-fatally.

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I'm still in law school, so I can't claim expertise yet, but my understanding is that accidentally killing someone while purposefully injuring them would be 1st-degree murder.

When you get excused is if you didn't act purposefully... e.g. if you drive your car recklessly and kill someone you'll be guilty of manslaughter. If you purposefully hit someone with your car you'll be guilty of murder even if you only meant to break a few bones.

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that. and if the priceless stradivarius was trhow into the sidewalk like any other cheap violin. i doubt the case would take much the priceless part into consideration

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But the SIM card was not just discarded where it could be picked up idly. To get at it a device had to be opened. OK so opening the device to get to the SIM probably wasn't difficult, but neither would be opened a violin case and you would not "accidentally" open the device and be surprised to find a SIM in there...

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you are correct. but i was not saying anything about the SIM card theft. i was talking about in which case stealing a stradivarius might have it priceless value ignored by the judge.

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A priceless stradivarious is a totally different ballgame than a very easily priced amount of gigabytes of 3G transfer. Some sense of market prices for what she actually used should have weighed in here, but obviously it didn't.

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As I said elsewhere, even on Telstra's most data-generous plan they charge $69 a month for the first twelve gigs and fifty bucks a gig after that.

Basically they have a pretty tenuous, very expensive 3G network to serve an enormous sparsely populated area and they really don't want people to use it to download large amounts of data. They're happy to sell you a wired link for that purpose.

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4 months wireless internet access != priceless stradivarius. Artificial scarcity fail.

The problem here is Telstra and/or the power company for not securing their SIM card or account.

At the very least this "Mr. Freeman" should be involved in the case as he removed the SIM card, which is probably a violation in and of itself.

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That is the same amount that Aurora was charged for the network access; essentially, she was ordered to make Aurora whole, which is basically the whole point of a civil action.

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It certainly didn't cost Telstra $193K, and I seriously doubt Telstra held Aurora to that charge, at least not if they wanted to keep them as a customer.

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Here's a good analogy:

NYC Cabs charge $2 per mile while their driving. So a 20 mile trip costs $40. But you're arguing that since the car gets 20 miles per gallon of gas, it should only cost $4.

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"We also accept Bitcoin. Please e-mail to arrange payment via this method."

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I wonder long before they're shutting down foreign .com sites for the 'crime' of infringing US patents.

Having only a .com for a business feels a lot like having all your eggs in one basket now.

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