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November 28, 2005

Obedience To Authority at fast food joints

David Pescovitz: I missed this news report when it first came out last month but it's absolutely insane. Apparently, a wannabe cop allegedly called dozens of fast food restaurants over the last decade pretending to be a police officer. He would tell the store manager that a particular employee was stealing and instruct the manager to strip search the accused and do other just plain wrong acts. Amazingly, the managers obeyed "Officer Scott's" instructions. Their "obedience to authority" would certainly be of interest to controversial social psychologist Stanley Milgram who conducted similar experiments in the 1960s. From the Louisville Courier-Journal:
On May 29, 2002, a girl celebrating her 18th birthday -- in her first hour of her first day on the job at the McDonald's in Roosevelt, Iowa -- was forced to strip, jog naked and assume a series of embarrassing poses, all at the direction of a caller on the phone, according to court and news accounts.

On Jan. 26, 2003, according a police report in Davenport, Iowa, an assistant manager at an Applebee's Neighborhood Grill & Bar conducted a degrading 90-minute search of a waitress at the behest of a caller who said he was a regional manager -- even though the man had called collect, and despite the fact the assistant manager had read a company memo warning about hoax calls just a month earlier. He later told police he'd forgotten about the memo.

On June 3, 2003, according to a city police spokesman in Juneau, Alaska, a caller to a Taco Bell there said he was working with the company to investigate drug abuse at the store, and had a manager pick out a 14-year-old customer -- and then strip her and force her to perform lewd acts...

Across the United States, at least 13 people who executed strip-searches ordered by the caller were charged with crimes, and seven were convicted.

But most of the duped managers were treated as victims — just like the people they searched and humiliated. They all "fell under the spell of a voice on the telephone," wrote a judge in Zanesville, Ohio, in an order acquitting Scott Winsor, 35, who'd been charged with unlawfully restraining and imposing himself on two women who worked for him at a McDonald's.

Chicago lawyer Craig Annunziata, who has defended 30 franchises sued after hoaxes, said every manager he interviewed genuinely believed they were helping police.

"They weren't trying to get their own jollies," he said.
Link (Thanks, Eric Paulos!)

Posted by dymaxion at 11:55 PM | Comments (0)

How do you split $11 billion?

How do you split up $11 billion? That's enough to evenly split $500,000 per Goldman Sachs employee. It's bonus season on Wall Street. Extensive interviews with current and former Goldman Sachs employees and a best guess of how all of the money gets disbursed.

Posted by dymaxion at 11:42 PM | Comments (0)

Microsoft responds to Xbox 360 crash reports

xbox 360 crash

We know Microsoft has a lot riding on the Xbox 360’s success, so it makes sense that in response to the first reports of Xbox crashes, they told Reuters there were “a few isolated reports of consoles not working as expected” for a “very, very small fraction” of Xboxes sold, and that their “number of calls was not unexpected.” Maybe so, maybe no; there are always a certain amount of defective units on any product launch — especially one as huge as this — and it’s not usually something anyone can call just based reports on forums alone. Molly O’Donnell, Microsoft spokesperson, called it “Par for the course.” Then again, we did have to call the Xbox support line about six times before we could even get on hold to talk to someone, and wound up on the horn over two and a half hours because one of our retail units (the one that crashed a couple times) wouldn’t (and still won’t) connect to Live. We’ll have to chalk that up to amazing odds, since only time will tell how pervasive and persistent the Xbox 360 crash problems really are, but in the mean time Microsoft says they’ll overnight repair or replace any defective 360s in your midst. So if you’re seeing screens like those above, holla at ‘em.

[Thanks, gamestopzak]

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Originally posted by Ryan Block from Engadget, ReBlogged by julianbleecker on Nov 24, 2005 at 10:54 AM

Posted by dymaxion at 11:33 PM | Comments (0)

Ice cores and climate change

EPICAFollowing up on Jamais' June 2004 post about the European Project for Ice Coring in Antarctica, or EPICA, new results published this week verify that "the relationship between climate and CO2 that had been deduced from the Vostok core appears remarkably robust," according to RealClimate.

Secondly, these results will allow paleoclimatologists to really look in detail at the differences between the different interglacials in the past. The previous 3 before our current era look quite similar to each other and were quite short (around 10,000 years). The one 400,000 years ago (Marine Isotope Stage 11, for those who count that way) was hypotheisied to look more like the Holocene and appears to be significantly longer (around 30,000 years). Many of the details though weren't completely clear in the Vostok data, but should now be much better resolved. This may help address some of the ideas put forward by Ruddiman (2003, 2005), and also help assess how long our current warm period is likely to last.

The study shows that carbon dioxide levels have increased significantly over the last two centuries, from 280 to 380 parts per million. According to Edward Brooks, a geosciences specialist at Oregon State University, quoted in an Associated Press article, "There's no natural condition that we know about in a really long time where the greenhouse gas levels were anywhere near what they are now. And these studies tell us that there's a strong relationship between temperature and greenhouse gases. Which logically leads you to the conclusion that maybe we should worry about temperature change in the future."

An article in the UK Guardian, linked from a comment on the RealClimate post, refers to analysis of cores drilled along the eastern seaboard, suggesting that "oceans will rise nearly half a metre by the end of the century, forcing coastlines back by hundreds of metres." Professor Kenneth Miller is quoted as saying there's little we can do at this point to stop the sea level from rising, prompting a clarification from Gavin Schmidt at RealClimate: "Miller's point is that sea level will continue to rise under any conceivable scenario (as seen in the 'committed climate change' papers by Meehl et al and Wigley earlier this year....while cuts in emissions will not prevent sea level rise, they may prevent the worst case scenarios in the medium to long term."

MSNBC also published an article, "Tiny bubbles, rising seas point to warming."

Mitigation/Adaptation: Jamais' post, What's the Best Path to CO2 Reduction, has good information on potential mitigation strategies, as well as the WikiPedia entry on Mitigation of global warming. The leading global effort at mitigation, of course, is the Kyoto Protocol. As Jamais posted when the Kyoto Treaty became active, "Kyoto is a reframing exercise, a memetic engineering project. It forces us to respond and, by being transparent in its failings, forces us in turn to come up with something better."

(Posted by Jon Lebkowsky in To Know It for the First Time – Place, Environment and Ecology at 03:55 PM)

Why do I reBlog this? As long as I'm in an existential tailspin.. -JB

Originally posted by Jon Lebkowsky from WorldChanging: Another World Is Here, ReBlogged by julianbleecker on Nov 25, 2005 at 10:22 PM

Posted by dymaxion at 11:32 PM | Comments (0)

Murdoch: says newspapers stripped to the bone--no more cuts


Posted by dymaxion at 11:30 PM | Comments (0)

One In 10 Swedes Belong To Web Community LunarStorm -- Including 90-plus Percent Of High School Students

: MySpace.com has great numbers but it doesn't have this kind of density across a single country. LunarStorm has more than 1.2 million active members -- enough, writes Thomas Crampton, to make it the largest city in Sweden if they all got together at once. The average member visits twice a day for roughly 25 minutes a day; the question of the day can rack up 150,000 or more responses. Members are discouraged from giving too much personal information.
A little more perspective: "Claiming a youth audience three times larger than MTV in Sweden, two times larger than the entire readership of all of the Swedish evening newspapers combined and more members logging on daily than the total number of young Swedes watching almost every television show, Lunarstorm has become an accidental media titan here."
Basic access is free; the pro version runs up tp 25 kroner a month and brings in 40 percent of the revenue. Advertising is responsible for 60 percent. Founder Rickard Ericsson, 31, says the 60-employee company has been profitable for three years, netting $1 million (8.3 million kroner) this year.
Earlier this month, LunarStorm made its first foray abroad, launching a UK edition

Posted by dymaxion at 11:29 PM | Comments (0)

120 Million Wi-Fi Chipsets Shipped in 2005

This fad may be here to stay: The Wi-Fi Alliance and In-Stat co-released the detail that over 100 million Wi-Fi chipsets were shipped already this year, with an estimate of 120 million by year's end.

Given that the share of laptops sold worldwide for 2005 is estimated at over 100 million units, and that a large majority of those are now sold with Wi-Fi, that accounts for a big hunk of it. Another large hunk are home gateways, selling in the tens of millions each year. The rest? Adapters, chips in handhelds, and newer Wi-Fi appliances.

Posted by dymaxion at 11:24 PM | Comments (0)

Heilemann on Googlephobia

For his New York column, John keys off the AAP lawsuit:

The signs are everywhere. In France, Jacques Chirac has ordered his minions to gin up a French and German search engine—on the grounds that Google is (wait for it) a tool of U.S. cultural imperialism. In Bentonville, Arkansas, Wal-Mart board members admit to keeping a wary eye on Google—whose capacity to alert shoppers to better bargains elsewhere is seen as a burgeoning threat. Even out in Silicon Valley, reproachful accusations are hurled that the once-beloved leader of the Internet resurgence has taken on a dark Microsoftian cast.

He quotes AAP Pat Schroeder:

“Alan Murray wrote a column in the Wall Street Journal that called Google’s business model a new kind of feudalism: The peasants produce the content; Google makes the profits,” she informs me, then ladles on an extra helping of ominous foreboding. “Do we really want one corporation controlling all the content in the world?”

Then explains how the case turns on interpretation of fair use:

7;s right? Impossible to say. By all accounts, the law of fair use is mind-bendingly complex: “There are parts of it that I don’t understand, and I’ve been studying it for years,” says Lawrence Lessig, the Stanford intellectual-property guru. Like virtually everyone involved in the dispute—he’s a vocal Google backer—Lessig allows that there are precedents that point in each direction. But he also acknowledges that the legal issues are in some respects peripheral, for the battle is actually being fueled by factors at once more venal and more visceral.

And then gets into the real business at hand:

If Google were to stick to its pledges about how it would employ the megadatabase of books that it’s constructing, the book business would likely benefit. But publishers don’t believe that Google can be relied on to keep its word. They fear that the company, which has made a mint off a technology, the Internet, that publishers still only vaguely comprehend, will someday abandon its putative adherence to just-the-snippets fair use and screw the publishers with their pants on.

As usual, a fun and worthwhile read.

Posted by dymaxion at 11:20 PM | Comments (0)

Branded Blog and Podcast sites prime for Takeover

Seems since the sale of Weblogs Inc. everyone seems to think that a lot of weblog companies are going to be flipped this year. It's all about the eyeballs and ears checking out or tuning into content. In a nutshell though it's all about the content and in order to have enough content people have to join forces and align themselves with others that create quality content. Does that mean a bunch of people are going to get rich this year. I would imagine some like the folks over at Boing Boing and other similar high traffic sites are going to have a very good year if they decide that they want to flip their companies and cash in. Time will tell [Business2.com]

Posted by dymaxion at 11:18 PM | Comments (0)

European Terrorism Law and Music Downloaders

The European music industry is lobbying the European Parliament, demanding things that the RIAA can only dream about:

The music and film industries are demanding that the European parliament extends the scope of proposed anti-terror laws to help them prosecute illegal downloaders. In an open letter to MEPs, companies including Sony BMG, Disney and EMI have asked to be given access to communications data - records of phone calls, emails and internet surfing - in order to take legal action against pirates and filesharers. Current proposals restrict use of such information to cases of terrorism and organised crime.

Our society definitely needs a serious conversation about the fundamental freedoms we are sacrificing in a misguided attempt to keep us safe from terrorism. It feels both surreal and sickening to have to defend our fundamental freedoms against those who want to stop people from sharing music. How is it possible that we can contemplate so much damage to our society simply to protect the business model of a handful of companies?

Posted by dymaxion at 11:12 PM | Comments (0)

Giving the U.S. Military the Power to Conduct Domestic Surveillance

More nonsense in the name of defending ourselves from terrorism:

The Defense Department has expanded its programs aimed at gathering and analyzing intelligence within the United States, creating new agencies, adding personnel and seeking additional legal authority for domestic security activities in the post-9/11 world.

The moves have taken place on several fronts. The White House is considering expanding the power of a little-known Pentagon agency called the Counterintelligence Field Activity, or CIFA, which was created three years ago. The proposal, made by a presidential commission, would transform CIFA from an office that coordinates Pentagon security efforts -- including protecting military facilities from attack -- to one that also has authority to investigate crimes within the United States such as treason, foreign or terrorist sabotage or even economic espionage.

The Pentagon has pushed legislation on Capitol Hill that would create an intelligence exception to the Privacy Act, allowing the FBI and others to share information gathered about U.S. citizens with the Pentagon, CIA and other intelligence agencies, as long as the data is deemed to be related to foreign intelligence. Backers say the measure is needed to strengthen investigations into terrorism or weapons of mass destruction.

nd the military have fundamentally different missions. The police protect citizens. The military attacks the enemy. When you start giving police powers to the military, citizens start looking like the enemy.

We gain a lot of security because we separate the functions of the police and the military, and we will all be much less safer if we allow those functions to blur. This kind of thing worries me far more than terrorist threats.

Posted by dymaxion at 11:12 PM | Comments (0)

Solar Energy

WSJ writes:

Ambitious plans to cover two big swaths of California desert with solar dishes could finally help the energy-producing technology make the leap to industrial-scale development.

ystems Inc., of Phoenix, hopes to construct 20,000 solar dishes covering four square miles of the Mohave Desert near Victorville, Calif., each dish pointing skyward to collect the sun's energy and convert it into electricity that would flow 80 miles south to power-hungry Los Angeles. The solar encampment, if eventually built, could produce 500 megawatts of electricity, enough to meet the daytime needs of 300,000 homes, doubling the state's solar capacity. The project cleared a hurdle last month when state regulators approved a 20-year power-purchase agreement between Stirling and Southern California Edison, a unit of Edison International.

A second project, involving Stirling and San Diego Gas & Electric Co., a unit of Sempra Energy, awaits approval. It calls for the purchase of 300 megawatts of solar power from a Stirling project in the Imperial Valley, east of San Diego, with an option to expand to as much as 900 megawatts -- the equivalent of two big gas-fired power plants.

Posted by dymaxion at 11:07 PM | Comments (0)

Microsoft's Xboss Losses

Micrososoft is getting (negatively) better at losing money on every Xbox it sells: Xbox: -$24 Xbox 360: -$126...

Posted by dymaxion at 11:00 PM | Comments (0)

Firefox 1.5 This Week

I can't wait till they finally release Firefox 1.5 this week. I've been talking through some of the changes with a developer and it sounds awesome. I think some of the extensions we're likely to see will be in a class of their own.

Posted by dymaxion at 10:51 PM | Comments (0)

MapQuest about to Nose Dive

Talking about the hidden story in this AP Story, Dana says AOL owned MapQuest is going down.

Posted by dymaxion at 10:41 PM | Comments (0)

First climate change refugees

For more than 30 years the 980 people living on the Carteret atolls have battled the Pacific to stop salt water destroying their coconut palms and waves crashing over their houses. They failed.

One week before UN Climate Change conference in Montreal, the Carterets' people became the first to be officially evacuated because of climate change. 10 families at a time will be moved by the authorities to Bougainville, an island 62 miles away. Within two years the six Carterets will be uninhabited and undefended. By 2015 they are likely to be completely submerged.

The Carterets will join many other Pacific islands that are on the point of being swallowed by the sea. According to the Red Cross, the number of people in the Oceania region affected by weather-related disasters has soared by 65 times during the past 30 years. Increased numbers of cyclones, droughts and floods, all predicted by climate change scientists, are making life unviable on many islands. Rising sea levels swamping the islands is the last act of a long, perhaps unstoppable process.

Via The Guardian.

Posted by dymaxion at 10:28 PM | Comments (0)

Victoria and Albert Museum Podcast

Filed under: ,

V&A MuseumThe Victoria and Albert Museum has begun their podcasting initiative, and it's heralded as the first museum or gallery in the UK to start such a venture. The podcasts feature a slew of curators, conservationists and researchers artfully (no pun intended) telling the story about the artwork in the Victoria and Albert Museum Paintings Gallery. This is all part of the museum's "Every Object Tells A Story" campaign.

Currently the Paintings Gallery is the only section being podcasted, but if audio guides are being created anyway, there's no reason why they won't expand their reach.

Podcast feeds are available here.  
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Posted by dymaxion at 10:12 PM | Comments (0)

Harvard Computer Science Podcast

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HarvardOne of Harvard's Computer Science classes, "Understanding Computers and the Internet," has seen a massive fanfare from putting class lectures up as podcasts. Since making the lectures available as both audio and video podcasts via iTunes, "Understanding Computers and the Internet" Podcast has made the jump to the top 100 podcasts and the "New-and-Notable" list on iTunes. And damnit, there's bragging rights in that!

Somehow I can't see this as being a good tool for a "Introduction to Object-Oriented Programming" but for a low(er) level class like this, it's perfect. Just do a search for it on iTunes.

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Posted by dymaxion at 10:06 PM | Comments (0)

MapQuest About To Nose Dive

Posted by dymaxion at 09:58 PM | Comments (0)

Digg & Engadget Attract More Traffic Than Slashdot

We recently covered Digg trying to catch up with Slashdot in terms of traffic. Alexa now reports higher traffic for Engadget and Digg compared to Slashdot. Digg started with the notion of how to leverage the collective mass of the Internet in various ways: applying it to content, using it to rank content, using it to make content more palatable to the masses. Automated systems take time to crawl

Posted by dymaxion at 09:33 PM | Comments (0)

Phishing Networks and IEDs

John Robb explains some "Lessons from Phishing Networks." What's especially interesting is his comparison of phishing networks and Iraqi insurgents:

The 21st Century criminal economies like the phishing economy... demonstrate the same degree of decentralized self-organization we see in the market for IED (improvised explosive devices) manufacture/deployment in Iraq. Both markets aren't controlled by any single gang, or even a collection of gangs. Instead, they consist a large network of individuals that trade, sell, share, and collaborate to make money and generate desired effects.

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Posted by dymaxion at 09:25 PM | Comments (0)

States, regions, and the Kyoto Protocols

Even though they can't be signatories to the Kyoto Protocols, a growing number of states, counties, or cities have used the Protocol as a model for local initiatives to reduce greenhouse gases. Indeed, according to a recent article in Nature,

Even though the United States does not participate in the Kyoto protocol, about one-quarter of the population lives in states, counties or cities that have adopted climate change policies similar to those of the global initiative.... Including regions classified as 'probable' and 'possible' adopters, which have pledged to reduce emissions, more than one-third of the U.S. population lives in such areas.... Together, these regions contribute up to half of the US gross domestic product, equivalent of 16.9% of global GDP, a slightly larger share than Japan, the world's second largest economy.

[via WorldChanging]

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Posted by dymaxion at 09:24 PM | Comments (0)

Technorati search plugin for Firefox

More and more, when I come upon some interesting article online, one thing I want to know is, "Who's blogged about this?"

In part I'm curious to see what other people have said about it; but the article itself also serves as a tool for finding interesting people-- much in the same way that del.icio.us tagging can help us identify people who share our interests.

Tonight I discovered a search plugin for Firefox that lets you search for URLs in Technorati. Very cool.

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Posted by dymaxion at 09:17 PM | Comments (0)

Recording Industry Wants To Use Anti-Terrorism Laws Against File Sharers

The recording industry has been known to over-estimate its own importance in the past, but it looks like a lot of folks are becoming more attuned to how the recording industry misleads. The latest is that they've made an effort to expand new European data retention proposals to be opened up to them as well. The rationale for those who support data retention is usually focused on stopping terrorism. Of course, plenty of people have accurately pointed out why data retention laws actually make the problem worse, by providing more bogus data, rather than making it easier to find the right data. However, the recording industry figures that if the data is going to be retained, they might as well be able to make use of that data for their own purposes: smoking out file sharers. However, in the wake of the Sony BMG rootkit fiasco, it seems like this suggestion is being met with well deserved ridicule from many corners who wonder where the industry gets off thinking it somehow has a right to this kind of data.

Posted by dymaxion at 08:58 PM | Comments (0)

Carbon Dioxide Level Highest in 650,000 Years

Posted by dymaxion at 02:59 PM | Comments (0)

Solar energy costs differ (San Jose Mercury News)

... renewable energy, according to a new study. Solar Power for North Bay Homeless Shelter... & Geothermal Energy (SPG) installed a 22 kW solar system on the roof of Petaluma's Mary Isaak... renewable energy. Interested in solar power? How much you'll pay in city fees to put solar panels ...

Solar Panel News Technorati this

Posted by dymaxion at 02:08 PM | Comments (0)

November 16, 2005

Google: our print scan program has no hidden AI agenda

Xeni Jardin: Snip from Andrew Donoghue's ZDNet article today:
Google has been quizzed about rumours that its current quest to digitise books may be about more than simply making literature available online, but the search giant is being non-committal on the subject.

At a conference on Tuesday, organised by The Economist, Jeff Levick, Google's director of vertical markets, was questioned about comments concerning artificial intelligence made by historian George Dyson following a recent visit to the Googleplex. During his visit Dyson claimed that one Google staff member working on book digitisation told him that some of the material was destined for a non-human audience.

"'We are not scanning all those books to be read by people,' explained one of my hosts after my talk. 'We are scanning them to be read by an AI,'" Dyson wrote in a posting on Edge.org following a visit to celebrate the sixtieth anniversary of John von Neumann's proposal for a digital computer.

ide-steps AI rumours".

Previously: George Dyson's Google visit -- "Turing's Cathedral"

Posted by dymaxion at 10:56 PM | Comments (0)

EFF launches Bloggers Rights fundraiser

Cory Doctorow: Support Bloggers' Rights! EFF has launched a Bloggers' Rights fundraising campaign. Bloggers are asked to put a badge on their sidebars encouraging people to sign up for EFF, and in return bloggers get premiums like tees and hats. More importantly, though, they get the freedom that EFF works to safeguard for all users of the Internet, defending your right to speak freely without fear of censorship, snooping or suppression.

EFF has won fights to require the cops to get a warrant before reading your email, to knock out parts of the PATRIOT Act, to kill frivolous copyright and trademark suits aimed at silencing criticism and innumerable other critical pieces of the struggle to keep the Internet free and open.

Boing Boing's got an EFF fundraiser badge. All the Gawker media, PVRBlog, Searchblog, and lots of other sites are following suit. So are personal blogs like Neil Gaiman's site, John Scalzi's Whatever, Anil Dash, and lots of others too. I hope you'll consider adding the badge to your site and helping us to keep the Internet free. Link

Posted by dymaxion at 10:53 PM | Comments (0)

Saving the Net: How to Keep the Carriers from Flushing the Net Down the Tubes (Donna Wentworth)

Linux Journal Senior Editor Doc Searls, in a lengthy essay that's more than worth the time it takes to digest: "We're hearing tales of two scenarios -- one pessimistic, one optimistic -- for the future of the Net. If the paranoids are right, the Net's toast. If they're not, it will be because we fought to save it, perhaps in a new way we haven't talked about before. Davids, meet your Goliaths."

Update: Tim Lee, offering a nearly as lengthy rebuttal: "I think the author of the article is wrong. Indeed, with all due respect to the people pushing so-called 'network neutrality' regulations (whose arguments I find persuasive on a lot of other issues), I think it’s rather silly. The Internet is a massive, chaotic, fiercely competitive ecosystem. No one carrier owns more than a tiny fraction of its capacity. No one company controls more than a tiny fraction of its content. In short, no one company is ever going to control the Internet."

Update #2: I haven't read it all the way through yet, but it appears that Jonathan Zittrain's latest paper takes a bird's eye view of the conflict, arguing that in order to salvage what's positive about the Net (its "generativity"), we may have to think through the unthinkable -- an unprecedented, but not fatal, level of technological "lockdown."

Posted by dymaxion at 10:48 PM | Comments (0)

Yahoo Plans Podcast Creation Tool

TechWeb News reports that Yahoo is working on a tool to make it easier for people to produce and publish podcasts. Joe Hayashi, senior director of product management, told TechWeb that the the challenges podcast publishers face are based on not understanding the technology behind the publishing tools - particularly RSS.

He's absolutely correct. Creating podcasts has to become as easy as blogging for it to take off beyond the geeks. People won't want to invest the time, PR professionals included. This is welcome.

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Posted by dymaxion at 10:41 PM | Comments (0)

Firefox 1.5 release expected soon

Sources say that Firefox 1.5 is ready for release, and should be online within a matter of hours. Nifty new features like SVG support make this the best Firefox ever.

Posted by dymaxion at 10:31 PM | Comments (0)

Deafening silence over GAO e-voting report, new evidence of abuse.

Mainstream Media to American Democracy: Drop Dead! Brad Friedman ask alarming questions about the complete lack of attention which has been paid to the GAO report on electronic voting technology (PDF link) released more than a month ago, which confirms what security experts have been saying for years: these systems are vulnerable to multiple independent attacks targeting system and network vulnerabilities, access controls, hardware controls, and overall management practices. If you're short of time, at least read Rep. Waxman's fact sheet summary.

Ultimately, there is no real security on these machines; the report shows that overturning election results would not be at all difficult for even a single moderately skilled attacker. And now Bob Fitrakis and Harvey Wasserman are wondering if American Democracy has died an electronic death in the wake of massive discrepancies between final pre-election opinion polls and the results of several citizen initiatives designed to reform Ohio's electoral processes.

Posted by dymaxion at 10:27 PM | Comments (0)

Murdoch Tells Aussie Shareholders Stock Will Rebound When Fear Of New Tech Ebbs

: News Corp. Chairman Rupert Murdoch faced the music with Australian shareholders at a meeting in Adelaide today. (He promised annual meetings there despite the HQ move to the U.S.) "I do recognize the fact that the share price at the moment is rotten," he said, according to the AP. He called the disconnect between share price and growth for News Corp. and other other major media companies "a bit of an investor strike." News Corp. has a lot of work ahead to turn a profit in new media, he told them, but there would be an upside: "As people realize as the world goes on and gets more complicated and more advanced that media is going to be a bigger and more central industry than ever before." Shares closed at $15.30 Tuesday, near their 52-week low.
Murdoch, who spent some time with son Lachlan, also addressed issues of succession complicated by the younger Murdoch's departure from the company's executive ranks. He said the company has "a very strong batch of candidates" and choosing a successor is "not going to be my say at all." He also told them how much he dislikes the discussion: "I'm just sick of being told I'm dying -- I'm feeling great."
From AAP: "He said the company still had a tremendous amount of work to do both on technical and organisational issues before it could start to make real and significant profits."

Posted by dymaxion at 10:11 PM | Comments (0)

Still More on Sony's DRM Rootkit

This story is just getting weirder and weirder (previous posts here and here).

Sony already said that they're stopping production of CDs with the embedded rootkit. Now they're saying that they will pull the infected disks from stores and offer free exchanges to people who inadvertently bought them.

Sony BMG Music Entertainment said Monday it will pull some of its most popular CDs from stores in response to backlash over copy-protection software on the discs.

Sony also said it will offer exchanges for consumers who purchased the discs, which contain hidden files that leave them vulnerable to computer viruses when played on a PC.

news, but there's more bad news. The patch Sony is distributing to remove the rootkit opens a huge security hole:
The root of the problem is a serious design flaw in Sony’s web-based uninstaller. When you first fill out Sony’s form to request a copy of the uninstaller, the request form downloads and installs a program – an ActiveX control created by the DRM vendor, First4Internet – called CodeSupport. CodeSupport remains on your system after you leave Sony’s site, and it is marked as safe for scripting, so any web page can ask CodeSupport to do things. One thing CodeSupport can be told to do is download and install code from an Internet site. Unfortunately, CodeSupport doesn’t verify that the downloaded code actually came from Sony or First4Internet. This means any web page can make CodeSupport download and install code from any URL without asking the user’s permission.

Even more interesting is that there may be at least half a million infected computers:

Using statistical sampling methods and a secret feature of XCP that notifies Sony when its CDs are placed in a computer, [security researcher Dan] Kaminsky was able to trace evidence of infections in a sample that points to the probable existence of at least one compromised machine in roughly 568,200 networks worldwide. This does not reflect a tally of actual infections, however, and the real number could be much higher.

I say "may be at least" because the data doesn't smell right to me. Look at the list of infected titles, and estimate what percentage of CD buyers will play them on their computers; does that seem like half a million sales to you? It doesn't to me, although I readily admit that I don't know the music business. Their methodology seems sound, though:

Kaminsky discovered that each of these requests leaves a trace that he could follow and track through the internet's domain name system, or DNS. While this couldn't directly give him the number of computers compromised by Sony, it provided him the number and location (both on the net and in the physical world) of networks that contained compromised computers. That is a number guaranteed to be smaller than the total of machines running XCP.

His research technique is called DNS cache snooping, a method of nondestructively examining patterns of DNS use. Luis Grangeia invented the technique, and Kaminsky became famous in the security community for refining it.

Kaminsky asked more than 3 million DNS servers across the net whether they knew the addresses associated with the Sony rootkit -- connected.sonymusic.com, updates.xcp-aurora.com and license.suncom2.com. He uses a "non-recursive DNS query" that allows him to peek into a server's cache and find out if anyone else has asked that particular machine for those addresses recently.

If the DNS server said yes, it had a cached copy of the address, which means that at least one of its client computers had used it to look up Sony's digital-rights-management site. If the DNS server said no, then Kaminsky knew for sure that no Sony-compromised machines existed behind it.

The results have surprised Kaminsky himself: 568,200 DNS servers knew about the Sony addresses. With no other reason for people to visit them, that points to one or more computers behind those DNS servers that are Sony-compromised. That's one in six DNS servers, across a statistical sampling of a third of the 9 million DNS servers Kaminsky estimates are on the net.

Sony's rapid fall from grace is a great example of the power of blogs; it's been fifteen days since Mark Russinovich first posted about the rootkit. In that time the news spread like a firestorm, first through the blogs, then to the tech media, and then into the mainstream media.

Posted by dymaxion at 09:51 PM | Comments (0)

Site Maps

I wrote some time ago about the Google Sitemap XML files. This is a small update on that post. After getting the sitemap.xml file created (which is a very simple XML file structure), I loaded it up to the...


Posted by dymaxion at 09:45 PM | Comments (0)

Microsoft VoIP strategy still under the radar

In a great piece at Business Week, it is speculated that increasing competitive strains between Microsoft and Cisco may result in Redmond attempting a power-grab at the enterprise VoIP market, which is currently dominated by Cisco phones, softswitches, and network switches.

Now I don’t have it on good authority that Microsoft has any real ability to vend realtime communications services, including VoIP solutions. My chief reason for saying this is that Microsoft  does not have a platform that gives them a competitive advantage. The Windows platform may be good for a number of things, but realtime applications isn’t one of them. Singularity, on the other hand—somebody with a realtime computing background, tell me if this has any promise for IP telephony?

But I’ve also heard it said that Microsoft would love to develop a “Telephony Services” edition of Windows, aimed at gearmakers like Avaya and NEC. (I can’t help but giggle at the potential name of such a product: “Microsoft Phone System 1.0” or “pb-X-box” etc.)  That is consistent with Nortel’s change in strategy, moving to a more software-dominated mindset.  But, knowing what I know about the telecom industry, I doubt Microsoft is going to have an easy time convincing big hardware players like Avaya to scrap ten years of hardcore, highly-refined IP telephony investments just to slap a label on their PBX that says, “Designed for Windows Telephony”.   Yeah, right.

That said, I do believe Microsoft is cooking up yet another services framework, this time for media applications like telephony—and I suspect it will be bundled with related frameworks that work a lot better together than they do apart, a la BackOffice or Small Business Server or IIS with Sharepoint.   Not “Microsoft Phone System” per se, but maybe a plug-in architecture for Live Communications Server, or perhaps, yes, even a very-much overhauled realtime media oriented version of Windows.

Getting back to the Cisco vs. Microsoft angle, here’s a quote from the BW piece:

VoIP CONNECTION.  “In spite of a lot of analyst commentary, I’ve seen more meat to our collaboration in the last few years,” says Scheinman. “Microsoft is dealing with the impact of the Internet revolution. Our hope and our goal is to work with them, to create opportunity for both of us.”

Wishful thinking? Many observers believe so. Take the burgeoning VoIP market, which is revolutionizing the way businesses and consumers communicate. Cisco is a market leader in selling entire systems — right down to VoIP handsets — to corporations.

Its Linksys division is the leading provider of routers that create wireless home networks and adapters that let conventional phones make calls via the Net. That makes Cisco a leading supplier of gear that works with services offered by Vonage and others, which allow users to talk to one another via broadband lines — a territory largely outside of Microsoft’s traditional competency of desktops and servers.

WINDOWS CALLING.  The market for VoIP phones and equipment is expected to rise to $1 billion in 2009, from $194 million this year, according to WinterGreen Research. Microsoft aims for as big a slice as possible. Microsoft bought one VoIP company, Teleo, in August, and another, media-streams.com, in November. “There’s not a market that’s safe from Microsoft,” says Jeff Pulver, one of the leading authorities in VoIP.

In October, Redmond released a Beta version of its Communicator for souped-up cell phones and personal digital assistants (PDAs). Due for release in 2006, the Communicator Mobile will allow users to make VoIP calls over their wireless handsets. And Microsoft plans to embed “call-manager” software directly into it next version of Windows, dubbed Vista, in late 2006. “That could make the Windows PC into the best telephone in the world,” capable of both displaying your contacts and allowing you to easily reach them all at once, says Frank Dzubeck, president of Communications Network Architects.

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Posted by dymaxion at 09:27 PM | Comments (0)

U.S. to Maintain Internet Control

Agreement reached creating global forum. Concerns this week that the EU would wrest control of the Internet from the United States have cooled - for the time being. Apparently a deal has been struck between negotiators from 100 countries and the U.S. that leaves true oversight in the..

Posted by dymaxion at 09:12 PM | Comments (0)

Saving the Net from the pipeholders r> I've spent much of the last two weeks writing an essay that just went up at Linux Journal: Saving the Net: How to Keep the Carriers from Flushing the Net Down the Tubes. It's probably the longest post I've ever put up on the Web. It's certainly the most important. And not just to me.
 I started writing it after a recent surprise visit by David Isenberg to Santa Barbara. He's the one who got me — and, I hope, us — going.
 I finished writing it yesterday after David Berlind published three excellent pieces, which I highly recommend reading, and acting upon.
 For guidance during the rest of this thing (whether they knew it or not), I also want to thank David Weinberger, Dave Winer, Steve Gillmor, Kevin Werbach, Cory Doctorow, Don Marti, Richard M. Stallman, Eric S. Raymond, Susan Crawford, Larry Lessig, John Palfrey, Chris Nolan, Jeff Jarvis, Craig Burton, Andrew Sullivan, Paul Kunz, Dean Landsman, Matt Welch, Sheila Lennon, George Lakoff, Om Malik, Phil Hughes, J.D. Lasica, Virginia Postrel, Jerry Michalski, Chris Anderson, Esther Dyson, Jim Thompson, Micah Sifry, John Perry Barlow, The EFF, the Berkman Center, the Personal Democracy Forum and others I'm overlooking but will fill in later when I have the time.
 Here they are: Bob Frankston, David Reed and Dan Bricklin, Phil Windley, Dave Farber, Elliott Noss, Vint Cerf, Joi Ito, Lauren Weinstein, Bret Faucett, John Clippinger, Kevin Barron...
 Although it's kinda huge, Saving the Net wasn't written as a Finished Work, but rather as a conversation starter — a way to change a rock we're pushing uphill to a snowball we're rolling downhill.
 Larry Lessig started rolling it at OSCON in 2002, and in various other ways before that, and the whole thing has been too damn sisyphean for too damn long. Time to change that.
 There's a thesis involved: that the Net is in danger of becoming what Kevin Werbach calls "a private toiled garden for the phone companies", but that the bigger enemy is in how all of us understand the Net itself. We have choices there, and those choices may mean life or death for the Net as most of us have known it — and taken it for granted — for the last decade or more.
 A couple days ago I spoke with a group of several dozen local citizens gathered in the Santa Barbara County supervisors' conference room to discuss forming a broadband task force. Early on, I asked people what the Net was. This brought up an amazing answer: there is no one answer. Anybody can give a clear answer to the same question when the subject is roads, or electrical service or water service. But the Net isn't so clear, even though all of us use it every day.
 So the answers were varied; yet one assumption stood out: i's a place, and not just fiber and copper, or a transport system for pumping "content" from producers to consumers. It's something we go on and not just through. Those two concepts — The Net is a Place and The Net is a Transport System — are both true, and yet often at odds, especially when it come to lawmaking, which has been driven to a lopsided degree by industries that live mostly in a habitat the Net has mostly thrived outside of: The Regulatory Environment. This is where the phone and cable companies have an upper hand, and where they have natural partners among the copyright obsessives in the entertainment industry. All those groups want to kill the Net as we know it. If they have their way, the Net we know is toast. In the U.S., anyway. Which, as everybody outside the U.S. can tell you, affects the rest of the world in a big way.
 And plenty of Bad Stuff is happening out there too.
 All of it is being made much worse by a lack of consciousness about how we frame our understanding of the Net.
 I'm trying to raise that consciousness.
 Required reading: David Weinberger's The Longing, which predates Cluetrain, and comprises perhaps its most important chapter.
 Also Connectivity is a Utility, by Bob Frankston.
 [Later...] Pointage to the essay. Pointage to "Saving the Net". Pointage to this blog.

Posted by dymaxion at 09:08 PM | Comments (0)

Publish information with Google Base


Another day, another Google product launch: Google Base beta publishes structured information about anything you want, like recipes or items for sale.

The free service provides:

a place where you can easily submit all types of online and offline content that we'll host and make searchable online. You can describe any item you post with attributes, which will help people find it when they search Google Base.

Some uses of Google Base already out there include a recipe for Chicken Tika Masala and Cars for Sale. "Labels" tag lists by keyword and make for easy browsing. You can add items in bulk to Google Base via FTP in XML formats (RSS, Atom) or a text file.

So, Lifehacker readers, tell us: how do you think Google Base can be put to good use?

Posted by dymaxion at 08:55 PM | Comments (0)

Microsoft Benefits Out Of Intel Based Mac

Applepeels thinks that it is a distinct possibility that Bill Gates(Microsoft) ends up making more money than Steve Jobs does off of the first Intel based Mac. Based on last year PiperJaffrey estimates - Apple sold 138K Mac minis in the first quarter after introduction. If Mac mini becomes the first Macintosh to ship with an Intel processor and if Apple sells 50% more of them than they did last year in the same period - that would put the estimate of Apple's Q2 FY06 Mac mini shipments at 207,000. If 50% or more of these Mac users install Windows on these systems and since they likely don't own a copy of Windows, they will end up buying one. They have probably already got a Mac so getting a system with If the estimate o the gross margin on the mini product is 18%. He concludes by writing that 207,000 Mac minis sold at an average price of $549 for a total revenue to Apple of $113,643,000, the 18% gross margin comes to $113M, the total gross margin dollars for Steve on his first Intel product come out to be $20,455,740. At around 200$ per seat for Mac- the max.sale on license comes to 23 million US$. Add to this more money that Microsoft would make based on the sale of other desktop products .

Category :

Posted by dymaxion at 08:44 PM | Comments (0)

Silicon Valley and/vs. China

John Markoff recently had an interesting piece in the New York Times (and International Herald Tribune) about Silicon Valley's complicated affair with China:

Silicon Valley's views of investment in China have tended to swing between wild optimism and deep anxiety - with the anxiety going beyond a fear of losing money. Some worry about helping Chinese start-ups move up the technology food chain. These days, the Valley venture capitalists are sharply divided in two camps: one rushing into China and one holding back.

"The Valley is excited and it's scared at the same time," said Richard Shaffer, editor in chief of VentureWire, a venture capital newsletter publisher.

The dominant perspective is that China is a vast sea of opportunity, from its low-cost skilled labor pool to its enormous consumer market. In fact, it is now routine for venture investors to demand that their start-ups place the bulk of software development and manufacturing efforts in China or India.

For skeptics, the concern is that American investment will help energize a formidable competitor, which could come to dominate both markets and technologies. The fear is based in the Valley's complex ties with China as supplier, partner, customer and rival. Most venture capitalists say this evolving relationship will define the future of the Valley and maybe even technology development in the United States.

The point about venture capitalists expecting to see an outsourcing plan from Day 1 deserves a little elaboration.

Several of my friends, who moved to the Valley in the early 1980s and made careers at places like Sun and SGI in the 1980s and 1990s, note that they came of age in a system that distributed both the work and the wealth. Long hours were the norm, but even the janitors could get stock options-- and of course, the software developers, testers, project managers, et al were also rewarded.

This vast upper-middle class of tech workers is something of a miracle. And the current mania for outsourcing development to China or India cuts it off at the knees. Far fewer Chinese companies have stock options programs, and thus the wealth isn't being distributed in Silicon Valley-- but neither is it being used to reward Chinese programmers to even remotely the same degree as their American counterparts. Over the long run, the question is whether Silicon Valley can survive, in some recognizable form, in the absence of the reward system that drove its rise.

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Posted by dymaxion at 08:40 PM | Comments (0)

Google Base Officially Live Now

Yesterday's prediction was true indeed: Google Base has been launched today. Officially launched, as in: no strange login screens, no data loss, and an announcement in Google's Blog. So what is it then? Google says this is the new (free) service where you can add any type of information, and they will host it and make it searchable online. T ... (Full post)

Posted by dymaxion at 08:38 PM | Comments (0)

November 11, 2005

Newspaper Circulation Down

The average weekday circulation at U.S. newspapers fell 2.6 percent in the six month-period ending this September. Here are the figures for the 20 biggest U.S. newspapers, as reported Monday by the Audit Bureau of Circulations. The percentage changes are from the comparable year-ago period.

  1. USA Today, 2,296,335, down 0.59 per cent
  2. The Wall Street Journal, 2,083,660, down 1.10 per cent
  3. The New York Times, 1,126,190, up 0.46 per cent
  4. Los Angeles Times, 843,432, down 3.79 per cent
  5. New York Daily News, 688,584, down 3.70 per cent
  6. The Washington Post, 678,779, down 4.09 per cent
  7. New York Post, 662,681, down 1.74 per cent
  8. Chicago Tribune, 586,122, down 2.47 per cent
  9. Houston Chronicle, 521,419, down 6.01 per cent
  10. The Boston Globe, 414,225, down 8.25 per cent
  11. The Arizona Republic, 411,043, down 0.54 per cent
  12. The Star-Ledger of Newark, N.J. , 400,092, up 0.01 per cent
  13. San Francisco Chronicle, 391,681, down 16.4 per cent
  14. Star Tribune of Minneapolis-St. Paul, 374,528, down 0.26 per cent
  15. The Atlanta Journal-Constitution, 362,426, down 8.73 per cent
  16. The Philadelphia Inquirer, 357,679, down 3.16 per cent
  17. Detroit Free Press, 341,248, down 2.18 per cent
  18. The Plain Dealer, Cleveland, 339,055, down 4.46 per cent
  19. The Oregonian, Portland, 333,515, down 1.24 per cent
  20. The San Diego Union-Tribune, 314,279, down 6.24 per cent.

Circulation has been steadily declining at newspapers for several years as readers look to other media such as cable TV and the Internet for news. Tougher rules on telemarketing have also hurt newspapers' ability to sign up new readers.

Newspapers also face sluggish growth in advertising, higher newsprint prices and increasing concern among investors about their growth prospects. The second-largest newspaper publisher in the country, Knight Ridder Inc., is facing a revolt from two of its top shareholders, who want the company to be sold.

The World is Flat (mp3).

Related DailyWireless stories include Interactive Journalism Awards, Camphones for Journalists, Rebuilding Media, Newspaper Podcasts?, Portable Photostories, Global Blog, NY Times Blinkx, BBC's Mobile Video, CBS/Comcast Broadband, Handheld Tablets, Rollout e-Reader, Interactive TV News, The Feed Room, ABC News Now Looks to Future, Publishers Buy Online Content, Mobile TV Expands, Big Media Mobilizes, and U.S. Gets MobileTV via DVB-H.

Posted by dymaxion at 05:49 PM | Comments (0)

Microsoft's potential Google-killer play: Taking a page or ten from the folks at Infinite Loop...

By Tom Foremski, Silicon Valley Watcher.com

The best strategy for Microsoft (and others) to fight off the innovation powerhouse of Google is to wrap metal and plastic around its software and online content/services.

Hardware is now cheap enough that the cell phone approach to the PC industry makes sense. Microsoft has the hardware experience and capabilities to create a MSFT PC that is tied into its "Live" platform for the consumer market.

This creates the walled garden--fusing hardware with software with services--that resists competition no matter how innovative. That's what Apple Computer did with the marriage of iPod/iTunes, and it created a position of dominance in a market that has many "innovative" MP3 players and online music stores.

Add to that a walled garden of pipes--from one or more of the telcos--and you have a very defensible fortress position.

Prop it up further with MSFT's billions in cash, and you have a massive fortress that will bleed Google dry trying to scale it.

[BTW, AOL did the wrong thing, again, by becoming open. It should have stayed closed and offered a trusted environment safe from phishing and spam and scammers. The AOL-Time Warner deal makes sense in today's environment...]

A MSFT PC could be based on its Xbox platform, and it doesn't necessarily need a big, expensive Intel microprocessor, it can be put together with a combination of specialist hardware and commodity parts. It would be aimed at the consumer and small business and schools markets.

It would also have MSFT's DRM technology embedded, and it would easily handle the vast majority of PC tasks used by the vast majority of people. MSFT has very good versions of all the stuff you need: media player, games player, word processor, spreadsheets, cell phone software, etc. All for $35 per month for basic service, $50 with the cable TV package.

Better yet, sign-up for the entire MSFT Digital Life Freedom Package that includes cell phone, TV/music service, phone, software, a multitude of online services, PC, and portable music player for just $99 per month.

Having its software online (but with enough on the client side to work when there is no internet connection), also solves Microsoft's huge software piracy problem.

There will be special editions of the MSFT PC too--school, work, etc. Enterprises won't buy these packages, but consumers will. A MSFT PC can seem very "open" at the start--but that gate can be gradually closed.

Now you understand why Google is buying up dark fiber, why it has hired chip engineers, and why it is investing in WIMAX--all to vault over the walled gardens being formed right, left and center--almost wherever you look. It is goodbye to open standards, open source, and open competition.

In that scenario, Google looks like the underdog to me. It doesn't have enough capital to take on a MSFT strategy such as the one described above. A Google tie up with IBM, the open standards knight in shining amour, is the only way it can take on Redmond's attempt to fence the open platforms of the PC and internet.imho.

Please see related stories:

Goodbye PC, welcome back proprietary devices
The trend is to use tightly bundled hardware, software and services to control access to content. May 2, 2005 05:50 PM

Posted by dymaxion at 05:41 PM | Comments (0)

TimesSelect: Doing the Math

: Short of explicit numbers from the New York Times Company, any estimate of what TimesSelect is bringing in has to be more of a guess-timate. We don't know what the ad take is so let's leave that aside and focus on subscription. The company says it has surpassed 270,000 with approximately half of those as print add-ons and the other half as online-only. With that in mind, I'll go with a baseline of 135,000 paying subs. Roughly 15,000 of those were imported from News Tracker so let's set them aside. More than 20,000 signed up at the $39.95 pre-launch rate. Again, let's go for a baseline of 20,000. That comes out to $799,000.
Now for the remaining 100,000. When I asked, the Times said the breakdown is roughly 80 percent annual, 20 percent monthly. At $49.95, the 80 percent or 80,000 comes out to $3,996,000. At $7.95 a month, the remaining twenty percent or 20,000 would be $159,000 monthly or $1,908,000 annualized, which is probably the least useful number here.
That would make the subscription revenue as of Nov. 9 at least $4,954,000. Put another way, every 10,000 subscribers at the full annual rate are worth $499,500; every 10,000 monthly subs bring in $79,500 or $954,000 annualized.
That's revenue, not profit, of course. TimesSelect has expenses -- both start-up and routine -- so its actual contribution to the bottomline for now is another questionmark.
Related: TimesSelect Passes 270,000 Subscribers In 52 Days; Half Are Online-Only Subs
-- Interview: Martin Nisenholtz, SVP-Digital Operations, NYTCO; Scott Heekin-Canedy, President & GM, The New York Times

Posted by dymaxion at 05:39 PM | Comments (0)

New Yahoo Maps, APIs

Yahoo late last night announced a new set of APIs for its mapping application, and a new beta of its Maps application. Yahoo is aggressively looking to expand its participation in the mashup world with these new hooks. Notably, you can hook into local search as well...and, presumably, the biz model for same as well.

Update: Thanks to SEW, here's a good overview of Yahoo's new offering. I'm heads down on a few things today...

Posted by dymaxion at 05:34 PM | Comments (0)

Verizon Wireless: Scrap Network Neutrality

A Verizon Wireless exec told a House committee hearing on the telecom reform bill that network neutrality provisions shouldn't apply to wireless carriers, because, well, just because, really. The exec contends that wireless operators should "have the right to manage their network and the devices that can be used with that network" -- which sounds like an open-ended way of saying they should be able to decide what content and services people using their network access. "Network management" will become a euphemism for "content blocking", with financial considerations, not technical ones, driving the decisions. If carriers are going to advertise unlimited service, they need to sell open, unlimited service, not not pretend there aren't capacity constraints, then hide restrictions in fine print and selectively block services that compete with their own. There's not much point in the operators trying to hide their sentiments, as it's pretty clear they'll go to drastic measures to get what they want. If there were real competition in the market, these types of regulations wouldn't be necessary, because any provider that started blocking applications would get destroyed by consumers. But when there isn't any real competition, the market doesn't do a great job of regulating itself.

Posted by dymaxion at 05:30 PM | Comments (0)

RIAA Complains To Congress About Satellite Radio

The RIAA was annoyed that new satellite radios would let users record shows off the air -- the modern-day equivalent of kids recording songs from FM onto cassettes -- and has gone crying to Congress, backing the HD Radio Content Protection Act of 2005. The act would essentially undermine the Audio Home Recording Act of 1992, which permits consumers to record music in their homes for non-commercial use, and force makers of digital and satellite radios with recording functionality delete recordings after a certain amount of time. Being able to make tape recordings of FM broadcasts didn't bring the recording industry to its knees, and this won't either, and never mind that home recordings are protected by law. But that means little to the entertainment industry, which would love to do away with things like fair use. Anyway, if people are really determined to record stuff, there's always the analog out -- oh wait, that want to get rid of that, too.

Posted by dymaxion at 05:29 PM | Comments (0)

Sniffing Passwords is Easy

From InfoWorld:

She said about half the hotels use shared network media (i.e., a hub versus an Ethernet switch), so any plain text password you transmit is sniffable by any like-minded person in the hotel. Most wireless access points are shared media as well; even networks requiring a WEP key often allow the common users to sniff each other's passwords.

She said the average number of passwords collected in an overnight hotel stay was 118, if you throw out the 50 percent of connections that used an Ethernet switch and did not broadcast passwords.

The vast majority, 41 percent, were HTTP-based passwords, followed by e-mail (SMTP, POP2, IMAP) at 40 percent. The last 19 percent were composed of FTP, ICQ, SNMP, SIP, Telnet, and a few other types.

As a security professional, my friend often attends security conferences and teaches security classes. She noted that the number of passwords she collected in these venues was higher on average than in non-security locations. The very people who are supposed to know more about security than anyone appeared to have a higher-than-normal level of remote access back to their companies, but weren't using any type of password protection.

At one conference, she listened to one of the world's foremost Cisco security experts as his laptop broadcast 12 different log-in types and passwords during the presentation. Ouch!

ted in analyzing that password database. What percentage of those passwords are English words? What percentage are in the common password dictionaries? What percentage use mixed case, or numbers, or punctuation? What's the frequency distribution of different password lengths?

Real password data is hard to come by. There's an interesting research paper in that data.

Posted by dymaxion at 05:25 PM | Comments (0)

Fraudulent Stock Transactions

From a Business Week story:

During July 13-26, stocks and mutual funds had been sold, and the proceeds wired out of his account in six transactions of nearly $30,000 apiece. Murty, a 64-year-old nuclear engineering professor at North Carolina State University, could only think it was a mistake. He hadn't sold any stock in months.

Murty dialed E*Trade the moment its call center opened at 7 a.m. A customer service rep urged him to change his password immediately. Too late. E*Trade says the computer in Murty's Cary (N.C.) home lacked antivirus software and had been infected with code that enabled hackers to grab his user name and password.

The cybercriminals, pretending to be Murty, directed E*Trade to liquidate his holdings. Then they had the brokerage wire the proceeds to a phony account in his name at Wells Fargo Bank. The New York-based online broker says the wire instructions appeared to be legit because they contained the security code the company e-mailed to Murty to execute the transaction. But the cyberthieves had gained control of Murty's e-mail, too.

E*Trade recovered some of the money from the Wells Fargo account and returned it to Murty. In October, the Indian-born professor reached what he calls a satisfactory settlement with the firm, which says it did nothing wrong.

ause is critical. E*trade insists it did nothing wrong. It executed $174,000 in fraudulent transactions, but it did nothing wrong. It sold stocks without the knowledge or consent of the owner of those stocks, but it did nothing wrong.

Now quite possibly, E*trade did nothing wrong legally. There may very well be a paragraph buried in whatever agreement this guy signed that says something like: "You agree that any trade request that comes to us with the right password, whether it came from you or not, will be processed." But there's the market failure. Until we fix that, these losses are an externality to E*Trade. They'll only fix the problem up to the point where customers aren't leaving them in droves, not to the point where the customers' stocks are secure.

Posted by dymaxion at 05:24 PM | Comments (0)

Windows Live www.live.com

Microsoft Introduced Windows Live today and it smells a lot like Web 2.0, did we just not hear that Web 2.0 was something Microsoft was not investing in. First impression they did not make it Firefox friendly big mistake because I am not loading they spyware prone Internet Explorer. The site looks a little like some other initiatives that are going on over at Google and various other companies.

The site will allow you to import a OPML feed and appears to be smart enough to automatically detect my RSS feed. It looks a lot like a news aggreator believe it or not but one thing for sure it is getting hammered at the moment and is slow as all get out [www.live.com]

Posted by dymaxion at 05:23 PM | Comments (0)

TECH TALK: Microsoft Live: Analysis (Part 3)

Russell Beattie called Microsoft’s Live services Monopoly 4.0:

The names that Microsoft chose to launch with show their true intentions and motives. Instead of creating a new “Live” service and concentrating on making that a new profitable business, they instead launched “Windows Live” and “Office Live” as extensions to their desktop monopolies. Live.com isn’t just for new online web apps (as it would appear at first glance) but are meant to be integrated consumer services just like Apple’s iTunes. Ray Ozzie actually gave that as an example today in explaining the power of tying all their different products and services together in one seamless package for consumers.

ey word here of course: Tying.

Though it doesn’t seem to make sense for Live to have the Windows or Office names right now - live.com is just another web dashboard at the moment - there are far more ambitious plans to come. The Windows and Office monikers are there because Microsoft will, of course, be up to it’s old tricks by heavily integrating Live services into the desktop sucking the air supply out of any online competitors. It doesn’t seem that they should be allowed to do this sort of thing, but the success of iTunes seems to have given them a new excuse to start tying products again. And hell, the DOJ agreement only lasts until 2007, no? I can easily see MS adding links throughout their OS and Office products as they have with Passport, Hotmail and MSN in an effort to push these new services.

Om Malik compared Microsoft to Macy: “In the fashion world, haute couture designers like Tom Ford and Dolce & Gabana create eye-popping outfits, that impress the fashionistas worldwide, and generate gushing headlines around the planet. A few hundred of them are sold at prices high enough to pay off the debt of some struggling nation. However, a few months later, pale imitations of that daring vision start to show up in mainstream stores like Macy’s, and thousands of consumers buy them. That’s when the real money is made…The Web 2.0 pioneers who created some fantastic new apps are like those star designers. They created the template of what’s cool. A few months later, just like Macy’s Microsoft learnt the new babble. Microsoft Office Live, is the watered down version of Web 2.0, wrapped in a business model for folks who don’t know and frankly don’t care about Ajax or whatever that goes into the cauldron.”

Om Malik also captured all of Microsoft’s potential competition.

Phil Wainewright made the point that advertising may not be the right model:

I am frankly bemused that anyone seriously believes Microsoft or anyone else is going to fund their on-demand applications from advertising revenues. The idea is complete bull, on two counts.

applications don't work. All the evidence from the past ten years of online services is that the more engaged the user is in pursuing an activity, the less likely their attention will be diverted by an ad.
The second factor is that the world does not revolve around advertising, it revolves around trade. Businesses need to be able to make and sell stuff before they have any money left over to spend on advertising.

Fred Wilson doesn’t think it is a big deal: “Windows Live is lame. I honestly could not find a single thing I'd use it for. Of course, that doesn't mean that others won't find it useful. But I already have a feed reader (actually a bunch of them). I already have a VOIP client and an integrated IM client. I already have several email apps. I already have a damn good social bookmarks manager…This is not going to be a repeat of the late 80s and early 90s when Microsoft slowly and surely put all the desktop software companies out of business. The web is not a platform that Microsoft controls. We the people control it.”

Dana Blankenhorn wrote: “What Microsoft has done today is to try and tilt the market's reality back into a proprietary direction, placing a new business model on an old reality. The plan is to have a variety of paid tiers for online versions of Office, delivering basic functionality for the price of looking at ads, and more functions as you pay more…That is a sea change. Microsoft is moving toward a business model first pioneered in the mid-1990s by America Online.”

Tomorrow: Emerging Markets Opportunity

Posted by dymaxion at 05:15 PM | Comments (0)

Microsoft's Online Push

WSJ writes about a memos by Ray Ozzie and subsequent email by Bill Gates:

Microsoft Corp. Chairman Bill Gates has endorsed a radical reshaping of how his company develops software and services, citing an internal memo that says much about the challenges Microsoft faces, and underscores the rise of an emerging technical leader at the company.

Oct. 30 sent to top Microsoft executives and engineers, Mr. Gates said the software giant needs to better address technologies and trends that are fueling a new wave of money-making on the Internet. "The next sea change is upon us," Mr. Gates wrote.

The core of Mr. Gates's email, which was examined by The Wall Street Journal, is a memo from Ray Ozzie, Microsoft's chief technology officer, who describes some of Microsoft's missed opportunities and also tips a hat to companies such as Google Inc., Salesforce.com Inc., Skype Technologies SA and other start-ups that have pioneered Internet services.
The coming "services wave" will be very disruptive, Mr. Gates writes in his introductory email. "We have competitors who will seize on these approaches and challenge us -- still, the opportunity for us to lead is very clear."

Dave Winer has full text of the memo and email.

Posted by dymaxion at 05:14 PM | Comments (0)

Public Trust and the Secret at the Heart of the New Voting Machines

Dark Source: Public Trust and the Secret at the Heart of the New Voting Machines.

Dark Source shows the inner workings of a commercial electronic voting machine, the Diebold AccuVote-TS™ touch-screen voting terminal that has recently been adopted in many U.S. states. This type of voting machine is called a "Direct Recording Electronic" machine which means that it records votes electronically in its memory, counts them, then transmits the result to a central election management system (whose software is also provided by Diebold). Dark Source presents over 2,000 pages of software code, a printout of 49,609 lines of C++ that constitute version 4.3.1 of the AccuVote-TS™ source code. A systematic study of this material could demonstrate how votes are recorded, tabulated, stored, kept secure, and reported by this machine.


Calling its source code a trade secret, Diebold has asserted its proprietary interest in protecting its intellectual property. Therefore in Dark Source the code, obtained freely over the internet following a 2002 security failure at Diebold, has been blacked out to comply with trade secrecy laws.

What is on display is not the forbidden source code, but rather the state of affairs in which we find ourselves today, one in which the critical infrastructure of democracy in the United States is becoming privately owned, and being private, is also being made secret.

By the uber-talented Ear Studio.

Posted by dymaxion at 04:59 PM | Comments (0)

Google is Building Yahoo 2.0

In his posting titled Reading the Google Tea Leaves, Tristan compares various product offerings from Google against those of the "big three" (AOL, Microsoft, and Yahoo!) and concludes:

Google does innovate in some spaces but has largely innovated in order to gain entry in markets that already existed. As a rule of thumb, they've been very smart at breathing new innovations in those markets. However, their competitors are generally quick to notice and are catching up.

I've been giving a much shorter verbal version of his post for many months now. Typically when I'm interviewing someone or talking to random folks who are trying to figure out this industry we're in. They'll ask a question like "what do you think Google is doing?" or "where is Google really headed?"

My answer is this: Google is trying to build Yahoo 2.0.

It's really that simple.

If they press me for details on this theory (that only happens about half the time) I say that it's as if someone decided to re-invent more and more of Yahoo's popular services in random order, giving them a fresh user interface, less historical baggage, and usually one feature that really stands out (such as Gmail's storage limit or Google Talk's use of Jabber).

When Google Calendar and Google Finance (more in a future post) finally show their faces, I suspect they'll follow the same pattern. They'll look like someone sat down and thought "I'm starting with a clean slate, so how would I build a modern version of Yahoo! Calendar, with a newer and more interactive UI, one killer feature, and fixing the various things we've learned since Yahoo! Calendar launched many years ago?"

A few people have recently told me that I'm not "stirring the pot" enough on my blog anymore. I assume that by "stirring the pot" they mean "talking trash about Google", so maybe this counts? Or maybe it's not trashy enough?

Anyway, what's your theory? Is Tristan right? Am I right?

Will Microsoft try to build Yahoo 3.0 in 24-36 moths when their newfound "services" vision finally trickles down through the ranks?

Posted by dymaxion at 04:52 PM | Comments (0)

NPR Launches Original Podcast Brand

Filed under: ,

alt.NPRNPR, has launched their own separate brand for original, podcast-only content, entitled alt.NPR. This addition of 16 new podcasts, brings the total number of podcast shows to 33 now. An additional 174 podcasts are also contributed by NPR member stations.

The new alt.NPR brand are original podcast shows developed specificaly for the purpose of podcasting. Two cool shows to highlight are: Groove Salad “Taste of the Week” by independent online music service SomaFM (go Rusty!), and “Youthcast” radio productions from up-and-coming producers at Public Radio Exchange.

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Posted by dymaxion at 04:41 PM | Comments (0)

Metadata's Revenge

Good piece by the NYT’s Tom Zeller Jr on metadata and the downfalls it’s caused: Sleuths mine information by reading between lines - Technology from the International Herald Tribune:

If you use Microsoft Word, open a document, go to the File menu and choose Properties. You should see some metadata. Third-party programs are available that will crack open even more. According to some technologists, including Dennis Kennedy, a lawyer and consultant based in St. Louis, Missouri, metadata might include other bits of information like notes and questions rendered as "comments" within a document, or the deletions and insertions logged by features like Track Changes in Microsoft Word and other modern word-processing programs.

Some examples:


Posted by dymaxion at 04:33 PM | Comments (0)

Be a DNS detective

DNS Stuff offers a gaggle of great DNS-related tools, conveniently organized as Domain Tests, IP Tests, Hostname Tests, and a few others.

This site has many DNS and networking tools for network administrators, domain owners, users of hosted DNS services, etc. There is no cost for using this site.

I might add that if you're not a network admin, etc., DNS Stuff still provides some fun snooping.

Thanks for the tip, Jason!

Posted by dymaxion at 04:27 PM | Comments (0)

Ed Whitacre Wants The End of The Internet

Important notice to readers of this blog -- if you are a customer of SBC, you may not be able to read these priceless words in the future if SBC chief Ed Whitacre has his way. Whitacre, in a candid interview with BusinessWeek, has uttered a challenge to the Internet that cannot be ignored. In short, he wants to end the Internet as we know it, bringing on a new era in which broadband providers like SBC can completely control every website, service, or person that we can access over the network that they provide. Think I am exagerating? Here is an excerpt:
BusinessWeek:How concerned are you about Internet upstarts like Google (GOOG), MSN, Vonage, and others?

Whitacre: How do you think they're going to get to customers? Through a broadband pipe. Cable companies have them. We have them. Now what they would like to do is use my pipes free, but I ain't going to let them do that because we have spent this capital and we have to have a return on it. So there's going to have to be some mechanism for these people who use these pipes to pay for the portion they're using. Why should they be allowed to use my pipes?

The Internet can't be free in that sense, because we and the cable companies have made an investment and for a Google or Yahoo! (YHOO) or Vonage or anybody to expect to use these pipes [for] free is nuts!
Hello Mr. Whitacre, I (the end consumer) am paying you for that broadband access! What makes you think it is "free?" And what makes you think that you can tell me what to do with it??

I have to agree with Techdirt's observation that "If there were real competition (in providing broadband), SBC would never even dare to suggest that they might cut off a Google, Yahoo or Vonage.

Posted by dymaxion at 04:27 PM | Comments (0)

GoogleNet Goes To Mountain View

Add one more city where Google plans to offer free Wi-Fi: City of Mountain View, California.

The search engine giant will appear before the Mountain View City Council and will submit a proposal to offer free wireless Internet access (Wi-Fi) to the city. The latest bid comes close on the heels of Google’s plans (if approved) to build a free wifi network in San Francisco.

Business 2.0 magazine had first reported earlier in the year that the company was building its own fiber network, and also had plans to build out a free ad-supported network in city of San Francisco. Since then, more details have emerged, and the company says it is going to use San Francisco WiFi Network to learn more about the location based services. Technically the Mountain View proposal is said to be the same as company’s plans for San Francisco. As per that bid, “residents (and visitors) will enjoy a free 300 kilobits per second, always on connection anywhere in the city.”

When queried about the Mountain View WiFi Hot Zone plans, a Google spokesperson in an emailed statement said, “Providing free Wi-Fi access to Mountain View is one way Google can support the citizens and businesses in the community where we’re headquartered. We look forward to speaking with the City Council and hope they accept this proposal so we can offer free Wi-Fi access to the residents and visitors of Mountain View.” Google says it has no plans to offer free Wi-Fi access beyond the Bay Area.

Posted by dymaxion at 04:23 PM | Comments (0)

Web 2.0: Sergey Brin's Talk Online

By nat

Sergey Brin stopped by at Web 2.0 last month, and John Battelle had a conversation with him about startups, video search, Google Office, Google as underdog, and more. Check out the audio on IT Conversations and catch the skinny from Dan Farber's notes on ZDNet.

Posted by dymaxion at 04:20 PM | Comments (0)

Technology IS the new religion

From Think Geek:

"We worship the god of USB"

It's a tiki USB flash drive:

Meet Big Tiki Drive, the most shaka (coolest) flash drive this side of the Hawaiian islands. Standing at almost 4” tall, the Big Tiki Drive is a stylish personal storage device for people on the move.... Stare into his glowing eyes and watch his expressive green “aura” glow and blink from below as he reads and writes your data.

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Posted by dymaxion at 04:17 PM | Comments (0)

November 10, 2005

Kinematic Self-Replicating Machines

Kinematic Self-Replicating Machines, by Robert A. Freitas Jr. and Ralph C. Merkle, is a comprehensive review of theoretical and experimental kinematic replicator projects of all scales as of 2004 (available for free online).

via KurzweilAI

Posted by dymaxion at 06:08 PM | Comments (0)

Morphology database going global

Morphbank is an open web repository of images serving the biological research community. It is currently being used to document specimens in natural history collections, to voucher DNA sequence data, and to share research results in disciplines such as taxonomy, morphometrics, comparative anatomy, and phylogenetics. With a $2.25 million NSF grant, Fredrik Ronquist and his team at Florida State University hope to eventually have a database accessible by everyone from kindergarteners to researchers with user friendly features such as image recognition to identify the species of an organism from a user-uploaded photograph.

via Biology News Net | FSU

MorphBank can serve as a virtual reference collection of named organisms or a resource for comparative morphological study; new use cases are continuously added. Each image in the database is associated with fully searchable text information, and images can be downloaded in several different formats.

Posted by dymaxion at 06:03 PM | Comments (0)

History of Contraception

A 650+ collection of historical contraceptives donated by Percy Skuy, the former president of Ortho-Macneill, is on view at the Dittrick Medical History Center at the Case Wester Reserve University. Percy Skuy’s collecting began in 1965 and encompassed all manner of contraceptive devices, from a broad variety of cultures and time periods, and eventually developed into a “History of Contraception Museum”.

via Medgadget | boingboing

Posted by dymaxion at 06:02 PM | Comments (0)

Golden Gate Suicide Map

The Golden Gate Bridge is the world’s No. 1 suicide magnet, in part because it makes suicide so easy. People jump and kill themselves there, an average of 19 a year. In the peak year, 1977, there were 40 suicides. Some dive not expecting obscurity or oblivion but a kind of grace — a welcoming body of water that inducts the jumper into nature. The SF Chronicle discusses the issues surrounding the Golden Gate Bridge suicide barrier (map & timeline).

via Cartography

Posted by dymaxion at 05:57 PM | Comments (0)

ISPOTS : Real-Time Wireless Map

ISPOTS tracks wireless Internet access points on the MIT campus into a visualization of usage patterns in the last 24 hours. [launch (right click to zoom)]
via Cartography

Posted by dymaxion at 05:55 PM | Comments (0)

Bio-Paper for Printing Organs

An emerging branch of medicine called “organ printing” takes a patient’s own healthy cells and uses a printer, cell-based “bio-ink” and “bio-paper” to create tissue to repair a damaged organ.

A new hydrogel or “bio-paper”,developed by the University of Utah College of Pharmacy, enables printing of organs by layering thin sheets embedded with cells. The cells and liquid hydrogel are put in the printer cartridge and then dropped into three-dimensional, 1-microliter dots that form layers as the hydrogel hardens. The cells form tissue that can be implanted into a damaged organ. Glenn D. Prestwich believes testing will begin on humans in the next year as research pushes to repair damaged organs in real-time.

via Medgadget

Posted by dymaxion at 05:55 PM | Comments (0)