I am an avid podcast listener, meaning, I have a pool of 200+ podcasts that I have subscribed to and choose episodes from on a weekly basis. (I know, it’s a fuckload)

In any case…earlier this year, I started my own podcast and was looking for a place to host it.
I signed up for a SoundCloud Pro Unlimited account (~$135/year) almost a year ago while they were still in beta. I have used SoundCloud for quite a while now and as a podcaster, I am having second thoughts. I chose SoundCloud over other competitors on the assumption that their new podcasting platform would be superior since they were the ‘new kid on the block’ and I wanted to be directly involved in helping them improve their podcasting platform.

Is SoundCloud for musicians? or podcasters? or both?

My frustration began when SoundCloud disabled html show notes/track descriptions. (I am not the only one, a lot of podcasters are angry about it too)

Since then, my frustration has begun to compound after SoundCloud has repeatedly told me that they are not interested in re-enabling embeddable HTML show notes.

Embeddable HTML Show Notes in Podcasts are important, because:

They allow the listener to focus on listening to the podcast instead of having to take notes or waste cognitive energy remembering references made in the podcast. Most podcast listeners are avid multitaskers and forcing them to remember in-show references makes for an unpleasant listening experience. With html show notes, the listener can easily click a link directly within the podcast instead of having to open up another browser and search. Imagine listening to a 2-3 hour podcast with 20-30 in-show references (i.e: online resources, books, media etc) — without clickable show notes, it would be a nightmare for listeners to find stuff.

You could post show notes on an external websites (which is what I am doing at the moment), but why create an extra step?

Embedded HTML Show notes also help listeners save time. A listener could easily spend 30 seconds skimming the show notes (and checking out key topics/references) to get an idea of the content covered in the podcast and decide if they want to listen to the show.

Those are the main reasons why I believe embedded HTML Show Notes are vital for podcasts. Most of my favorite podcasts already use them and it makes my life easier.

When I asked SoundCloud why they removed this feature, I got the following response from Gina:

I know it’s super frustrating when there’s a change in a product that negatively affects your use. You absolutely were not alone in your frustration, there were many users who used html links in their profile to promote their music and that’s what we are here for – to promote your music.

Sadly, spammers and other malicious users abused the availability of html links. The security of our users is of the utmost importance and in this case, the amount of potential harm was not something we could permit or ignore. You can still add links to descriptions, but they will display as full URLs rather than displaying text that links.

Again, it sucks that we had to do this! We never imagined it would be used against us and our users but that was the case and the reason we removed html code links.

Did you hear that? Spammers and malicious users abused the availability of html links.

Hmmm.

On the surface, this may seem like a legitimate reason, but is it really? I don’t think so.

For one, there’s a widely accepted XML standard called CDATA that allows links in a podcast feed. Even Apple recognizes the CDATA standard. Furthermore, most of the well known and established podcast hosts (i.e: libsyn, podbean etc.) allow html links in their description/show notes section. Not to mention, most well known podcasts are using embedded html show notes!

So, why is it that most of the well known podcast hosts are allowing dangerous, malicious HTML show notes without any issues?

Perhaps because It’s NOT.

This is why I am not buying SoundCloud’s “..Spammers and malicious users abused the availability of html links..” argument.

Furthermore, it’s not difficult to build a parser (by using Markdown for example) that will allow SoundCloud users to use HTML in their track descriptions/show notes without giving them direct access to HTML. For example, one could use [link][/link] tags instead of <a href=”..”></a> tags.

Which leads me to conclude that, podcasters aren’t much of a priority for SoundCloud. It’s primary focus appears to be for musicians.

If SoundCloud doesn’t figure out it’s identity and improve their platform for podcasters by the end of year, I will be jumping ship. I am considering hosting my podcast on my own server or using Amazon Web Services for greater control over my feed.

Are you a SoundCloud user? How has your experience been so far?

Recently, a 40-year old Japanese man landed a drone carrying radioactive sand atop the Prime Minister’s office to protest nuclear power. Another guy attempted to deliver drugs, a cell phone and a knife to a prison inmate. Various extremist groups are also experimenting with modified Consumer drones.

Consumer drones may not yet be ubiquitous, but they are going to be in the near future. While there maybe legitimate uses for consumer drones (aerial videography, site surveying, recreation, etc), I would like to talk more about the criminal applications of consumer drones, specifically: adversaries interested in inflicting human casualties and causing maximum damage. (i.e: terrorists, criminals etc.)

Why drones? Well, for starters, drones let you:

1.) remotely control the entire operation
2.) bypass physical security/authentication
3.) automate payload delivery based on GPS coordinates
4.) carry chemical agents (i.e: anthrax) or explosives

Also, they are incredibly inexpensive and requires no face-to-face interaction with the target.

The economics makes sense. If you are an extremist terrorist group, using weaponized drones is a no brainer.

It’s not difficult to send a swarm of drones equipped with explosives to a public gathering or a sporting event.

I don’t want this post to sound like blatant fear mongering, rather: I am interested in opening up some discourse about countermeasures.

What can we do about such threats?

I am not entirely sure, but these are some solutions I could think of:

Counter-measures:

1.) GPS Spoofing: It is possible to convince an enemy drone (ED) to land at a location of your choice by remotely sending the ED false GPS coordinates. This is not a theory. In 2011, an American UAV (Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) Drone was captured by Iranian forces. The adversary allegedly used this type of attack to accomplish the capture.

2.) Intercepter Drone: The only way to fight a drone is with another drone. What if you have a small army of drones programmed to intercept any flying drone within a given perimeter, then capture that drone and use it as evidence in a court of law to prosecute the enemy drone’s (ED) pilot? Yes, that is very doable.

3.) RF Jamming: You can easily find schematics for building your own Drone RF Jammer online. Again, the protocol would be: to kill any enemy drones entering a given perimeter by RF interference.

4.) Electro magnetic pulse (EMP): You could also use an electro magnetic pulse to disable an enemy drone. Boeing has tested putting an EMP on a drone as well. It’s called CHAMP (Counter electronics high power microwave advanced missile project — phew….what a mouthful). Keep in mind, this is all old news. (watch it in action)

CHAMP approached its first target and fired a burst of High Power Microwaves at a two story building built on the test range. Inside rows of personal computers and electrical systems were turned on to gauge the effects of the powerful radio waves. Seconds later the PC monitors went dark and cheers erupted in the conference room. CHAMP had successfully knocked out the computer and electrical systems in the target building. Even the television cameras set up to record the test were knocked off line without collateral damage. – Boeing

5.) Nets: I was thinking about a bunch of high tech solutions, but forgot to list a very low cost, effective solution: Nets. I don’t see why this wouldn’t work either. It might not be aesthetically pleasing from a architectural standpoint, but it can get the job done – unless of course the enemy drones are equipped with some sort of a ‘net cutting’ tool. (Thanks to reader Patrick Doyle from Chemical Facility Security News for the suggestion)

Side note: I am not sure if RADAR would be such an effective method of thwarting unwelcome enemy drones though. The small size and low altitude makes it very difficult for RADAR to detect consumer drones.

Know of any clever criminal uses of consumer drones and how to stop them? I’d love to hear about it.

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