Saturday, February 11, 2006

Dilbert: Certified Project Manager Zombie

Click for larger image.

WSJ: Tech Companies & Internet Censorship

Amy Schatz writes in The Wall Street Journal:

Executives from Google Inc. and other Internet companies head to Capitol Hill next week, where they will become feature players in an awkward debate: Are U.S. companies giving in to China too easily?

Last month, Google announced an agreement with the Chinese government to censor search results from its Chinese site. It was the latest Internet company to accede to the Chinese government's censorship restrictions, following Cisco Systems Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Yahoo Inc.

The hearing will likely produce more embarrassing publicity for the companies, and it may drive legislative momentum among lawmakers concerned about China's influence on the U.S. economy. Congressional aides are expecting a standing-room-only crowd, and the reception from politicians may be chilly.

More here.

H5N1 News: Greece, Italy Find Deadly Strain of Bird Flu Virus

A Reuters newswire article, via MSNBC, reports that:

Greece and Italy said on Saturday they had found swans with the H5N1 bird flu virus, the first known cases in the European Union of wild birds with the deadly strain of the disease.

As the slow creep of the virus around the globe continued, Romania said more infections were suspected in birds in the Danube delta and Bulgaria said the lethal strain had been confirmed among swans in wetlands close to the Romanian border. The region is a haven and transit point for migrating birds.

Nigeria started testing people who have fallen ill close to where the virus has been found among birds, in the first outbreak in African of a disease that has spread seemingly inexorably across the Eurasian landmass from China and Vietnam.

Gadget of the Day: Pac-Man, Ms. Pac Man and Galaga Cocktail Table

Image source: Gizmodo

Bonus: I love Galaga. :-)

Via Gizmodo.

Here’s a tripleheader cocktail table that lets you play Pac Man, Ms. Pac Man and Galaga in their original form. Extreme Toys for Boys is offering this cocktail table unit, which looks just like the original but contains only the latest technology, at a sale price of $3600. Not sure why they call it the 20th Anniversary Edition, because those three games came into this world much earlier than that.

User Friendly: Google Genetics


Click for larger image.

Privacy Groups Seek Domestic Spying Papers

An AP newswire article, via The Washington Post, reports that:

A federal judge said Friday he was considering setting a deadline for the Justice Department to produce records on the Bush administration's warrantless surveillance program or to explain in court why it was refusing to do so.

U.S. District Judge Henry Kennedy said he was convinced the public would suffer irreparable harm if the government dragged its feet in a lawsuit filed over access to the documents.

The lawsuit was filed by three private groups who say the government is engaging in a pattern of delay and should be compelled to provide information on the underlying legal rationale for the surveillance and the scope of the eavesdropping program.

Congress is having difficulty getting the same information.

StormPay Battling Sustained DDoS Attack

Via Netcraft.

Payment gateway StormPay is recovering from a distributed denial of service attack (DDoS) that has kept its web site offline for much of the past two days. The company, which provides online payment processing for thousands of e-commerce web sites, came back online Friday after a sustained attack that commenced last weekend. The DDoS on StormPay is the latest in a series of attacks on services that allow web merchants to accept credit cards.

The attacks flooded StormPay with up to 6 gigabits a second of data, according to Barrett Lyon, chief technology officer of Prolexic Technologies, which specializes in DDoS defense and is working with StormPay to mitigate the attack. Lyon said the DDoS involved DNS amplification, using bogus DNS requests to cause Internet nameservers to inundate StormPay's web site with traffic.

Falun Gong Leader Brutally Attacked

Richard C. Morais writes on

Peter Yuan Li--a key figure in the Falun Gong's technologically sophisticated attempt to undermine the Chinese Communist Party--was brutally attacked and beaten in his home in Duluth, Ga., as Forbes was going to press with its cover story on how the spiritual movement is penetrating the Chinese government's hi-tech censorship.

At 11:15 A.M. on Feb. 8, according to the Fulton County Police Department Incident Report, Asian men stormed the house of the Princeton-educated information technology technician, bound and gagged and beat him, before fleeing with two 16-inch Sony laptop computers, Li's wallet and yet unknown material from his files.

"They were not looking for valuables," says Dr. Li, who needed 15 stitches in his face. "They left my daughter's jewelry and camcorder and other valuables."

Update: FBI Makes Connections in Data Breach Case

Greg Sandoval writes on C|Net News:

A data security breach that has spurred at least two large banks to cancel thousands of customer debit cards appears to be connected to an older ongoing investigation in Sacramento, the FBI said Friday.

Scores of Bank of America and Washington Mutual customers have received notifications from the banks that their debit cards were cancelled because of a breach at a "third-party" establishment. In interviews with CNET, neither bank would disclose the name of the unidentified company.

However, law enforcement and banking sources, who asked for anonymity, told CNET that the unidentified business was one of the big-box retailers.

Fossett Breaks Flight Distance Record

Steve Fossett decided Saturday, Feb. 11, 2006 to go for an
aviation distance record despite losing 750 pounds of fuel.

Image source: CBS / AP

Via CBS News.

Adventurer Steve Fossett completed the longest nonstop flight in aviation history Saturday after flying around the globe and then some in roughly 80 hours.

Ground control said he broke the distance record of of 24,987 miles when he flew over Shannon, Ireland.

Oracle May Buy 3 More Companies

Carrie Kirby writes on

Oracle Corp. is in talks to spend up to $600 million to buy three software companies in its biggest embrace yet of open source software, according to news reports.

The Redwood City database giant is reportedly looking to bolster its offerings in the area of middleware by buying Atlanta's JBoss, which sells an open source version of application server software. The story, first reported by BusinessWeek Online, cited unnamed sources and said negotiations could still unravel. The price being talked about is $400 million, the reports said. Fix

Via Enjoy!

Bizarre Story of the Day: Hungarian PM appears on Internet as Hugh Grant

A Reuters newswire article, via Yahoo! News, reports that:

Hungary's most famous fan of Hugh Grant has taken his enthusiasm for the British actor to new heights.

A video clip available on the internet at starts with Grant in the movie Love Actually, in the role of the British prime minister peering out of the window in his room at 10, Downing Street.

But the man who then turns to face the camera is Hungary's Prime Minister Ferenc Gyurcsany, who goes on to dance to a pop song around his study.

Censorship Is Alleged at NOAA

Juliet Eilperin writes in The Washington Post:

James E. Hansen, the NASA climate scientist who sparked an uproar last month by accusing the Bush administration of keeping scientific information from reaching the public, said Friday that officials at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration are also muzzling researchers who study global warming.

Hansen, speaking in a panel discussion about science and the environment before a packed audience at the New School university, said that while he hopes his own agency will soon adopt a more open policy, NOAA insists on having "a minder" monitor its scientists when they discuss their findings with journalists.

"It seems more like Nazi Germany or the Soviet Union than the United States," said Hansen, prompting a round of applause from the audience.

More here.

Indiana House Wrongly Valued at $400 Million

An AP newswire article, via Yahoo! News, reports that:

A house erroneously valued at $400 million is being blamed for budget shortfalls and possible layoffs in municipalities and school districts in northwest Indiana.

An outside user of Porter County's computer system may have triggered the mess by accidentally changing the value of the Valparaiso house, said Sharon Lippens, director of the county's information technologies and service department. The house had been valued at $121,900 before the glitch.

County Treasurer Jim Murphy said the home usually carried about $1,500 in property taxes; this year, it was billed $8 million.

The homeowner, Dennis Charnetzky, declined to comment about the situation to The Associated Press on Friday.

FTC to Hold High-Tech Issue Hearings

An AP newswire article, via Yahoo! News, reports that:

The Federal Trade Commission will host hearings this fall on emerging technologies being exploited by Internet spies and identity thieves.

The FTC last held similar hearings in 1995, when the technology to create now familiar problems such as spyware and spam was still in its infancy.

"It is time to look ahead and examine the next generation of issues to emerge in our high-tech global marketplace," FTC Chairwoman Deborah Platt Majoras said at an anti-spyware conference Thursday. "Ten years is an eternity for technology."

Wikipedia Reviewing U.S., Canadian and British Political Bios

An AFP newswire article, via Yahoo! News, reports that:

The founder of the vast online reference site, Wikipedia, said that volunteers were checking the biographies of American, Canadian and British lawmakers following some online spin-doctoring.

The huge online encyclopedia, which can be edited by anyone logging onto its site, is checking its biographies after it emerged some US lawmakers' biographies had benefited from flattering updates.

The volunteers who run Wikipedia discovered the online updates had originated from computers in the US Congress, sparking a wider review of other political biographies hosted on the site.

U.S. Charges California Man in 'Botnet' Case

A Reuters newswire article, via Yahoo! News, reports that:

A California man was indicted on Friday on federal charges of creating a robot-like network of hijacked computers that helped him and two others bring in $100,000 for installing unwanted ad software.

The indictment from a federal grand jury in Seattle also accuses Christopher Maxwell, 20, and two unidentified conspirators of crippling Seattle's Northwest Hospital with a "botnet" attack in January 2005.

Authorities say the hospital attack caused $150,000 in damages, shut down the intensive care unit and disabled doctors' pagers.

Friday, February 10, 2006

HBO Wants No Recording of Shows—Ever

Via Gizmodo.

Looks like HBO is trying to use a broadcast flag to ban us from recording any of its programming on our DVRs. The company has recently filed with the FCC, saying its shows—and all “Subscription Video On Demand” services—should be labeled as “Copy Never.” This means simply, if enacted, that we could never record its content on anything—not even your old, analog VCR.

Come on HBO, don’t be such a downer. We pay for your services, we love your programming, if we want to record an episode of The Sopranos, please don’t take that away. You make some good money on us, so don’t get so greedy.

The Onion: Wiretapping Intelligence

Via The Onion.

Click for larger image.

Ex-CIA Official Says Intelligence 'Misused' to Justify Iraq War

Walter Pincus writes in The Washington Post:

The former CIA official who coordinated U.S. intelligence on the Middle East until last year has accused the Bush administration of "cherry-picking" intelligence on Iraq to justify a decision it had already reached to go to war, and of ignoring warnings that the country could easily fall into violence and chaos after an invasion to overthrow Saddam Hussein.

Paul R. Pillar, who was the national intelligence officer for the Near East and South Asia from 2000 to 2005, acknowledges the U.S. intelligence agencies' mistakes in concluding that Hussein's government possessed weapons of mass destruction. But he said those misjudgments did not drive the administration's decision to invade.

Much more here.

Netflix Sends Frequent Renters to the Back of DVD Line

An AP newswire article by Michael Liedtke, via, reports that:

Manuel Villanueva realizes he has been getting a pretty good deal since he signed up for Netflix Inc.'s online DVD rental service 2 1/2 years ago, but he still feels shortchanged.

That's because the $17.99 monthly fee that he pays to rent up to three DVDs at a time would amount to an even bigger bargain if the company didn't penalize him for returning his movies so quickly.

Netflix typically sends about 13 movies per month to Villanueva's home in Warren, Mich. — down from the 18 to 22 DVDs he once received before the company's automated system identified him as a heavy renter and began delaying his shipments to protect its profits.

The same Netflix formula also shoves Villanueva to the back of the line for the most-wanted DVDs, so the service can send those popular flicks to new subscribers and infrequent renters.

Steve Martin Defends SNL Title

Thanks, John Paczkowski, for the pointer. This is hilarious.

AT&T Claims MPEG-4 Patent Infringement, Wants Apple to Pay Up

Image source: Engadget

Paul Miller writes over on Engadget:

We already knew that between MPEG-LA, Via Licensing and others, MPEG-4 and the H.264 codec were already awash with patent holders and complicated royalty systems, but it looks like there's a new kid on the block that wants its share of Apple, CyberLink, DivX, InterVideo and Sonic Solutions pie.

Fresh from its SBC merger, AT&T is going after the big iPod bucks claiming that the device infringes on their patents which they claim are "a core component of MPEG-4." AT&T claims that they're not just after the money and that they're looking to "make sure others are able to take advantage of this technology," but they also state: "what we're doing is pretty common among intellectual property holders," which isn't exactly comforting given the tech industry's history with such things.

Security Fix: Letter From the Anti-Spyware Coalition Conference

Brian Krebs writes on Security Fix:

As long as I have been writing about computer security, the number one complaint and help request from readers has consistently been how to eliminate or ward off threats introduced by spyware and adware. Now that I've spent the day at the first annual conference of the Anti-Spyware Coalition in Washington, D.C. -- an organization headed by the nonprofit Center for Democracy and Technology -- it was clear that the ever evolving threat of "badware" is presenting serious challenges, not just for law enforcement officials and policymakers, but for the vanguard of the tech security and advertising communities as well.

The twin themes that I heard throughout nearly every track of the conference were that a large portion of the spyware problem is being fueled by the advertising imperatives of Fortune 500 companies, and that -- ironically -- the scourge of spyware is perhaps most pronounced in the business environment.

Much more here.

Nuns' Account Frozen By Patriot Act

(Thanks, Gary!)

A UPI newswire article, via NewsWatch50/WWTI, reports that:

Nuns of Holy Name Monastery say ridiculous Patriot Act scrutiny led their bank to freeze the St. Leo, Fla., religious order's main account. I think the Patriot Act is unwise, said Sister Jean Abbott, the Benedictine order's business manager.

"If it happened to us, it can happen to anybody," she told the Tampa (Fla.) Tribune. "I think people need to know that nobody is safe from, in some cases, really ridiculous scrutiny."

The order said its account was frozen without explanation or notification for a week in November, causing checks to bounce and taking three months to straighten out.

Abbott said she was told the trouble began because an 80-year-old nun, a signatory on the account, did not have her Social Security number or photo identification on file.

"Clearly an international spy," Abbott wryly told the newspaper.

A Wachovia bank spokesman, citing privacy concerns, declined comment.

NPR: Online Gaming, Money and Tax Law

I listened to this on NPR this morning while running some errands, and it was quite fascinating.

Some players of online role-playing games are so determined that they will pay real money to get ahead. Steve Inskeep talks with Julian Dibbell, who wrote about the tax implications of this practice in a recent issue of Legal Affairs.

Patriot Act e-Mail Spying Approved

Declan McCullagh writes on C|Net News:

As part of a grand jury investigation that's still secret, the Justice Department asked a federal magistrate judge to approve monitoring of an unnamed person's e-mail correspondents.

The request had a twist: Instead of asking to eavesdrop on the contents of the e-mail messages, which would require some evidence of wrongdoing, prosecutors instead requested the identities of the correspondents. Also included in the request was header information like date and time and Internet address--but not subject lines.

The federal magistrate judge balked and asked the Justice Department to submit an additional brief to demonstrate that such a request would be legal.

Instead, prosecutors asked Judge Hogan to step in. He reviewed the portion of federal law dealing with "pen register" and "trap and trace" devices--terms originating in the world of telephone wiretapping--and concluded it "unambiguously" authorizes the e-mail surveillance request.

More here.

Video Surveillance Firm Forces Workers to Implant RFID Chips

Jan Libbenga writes on The Register:

A Cincinnati video surveillance company now requires employees to use Verichip human implantable microchips to enter a secure data centre. Until now, the employees entered the data centre with a VeriChip housed in a heart-shaped plastic casing that hangs from their keychain.

The VeriChip is a glass encapsulated RFID tag that is injected into the triceps area of the arm to uniquely identify individuals. The tag can be read by radio waves from a few inches away.

The news was reported by CASPIAN (Consumers Against Supermarket Privacy Invasion and Numbering), a US organisation that opposes the use of surveillance RFID cards.

User Friendly: Anonymous Google Employee


Click for larger image.

Grapefruit or Penis? Vietnam Accents the Difference

An AFP newswire article, via, reports that:

A website seeking to advertise the humble grapefruit will not be permitted to register its name in Vietnamese because the word is spelt the same as penis, an official said Friday.

"We have to refuse the website name of because the word for grapefruit, buoi, without a proper tone marking can be misunderstood to mean penis," said Thai Huu Ly of the Vietnam Internet Network Information Centre.

UK: NTL Launches 100Mbs Field Trial

Clive Akass writes on Personal Computer World:

Cable giant NTL is to field test a 100Mbits/sec broadband service for homes from March at Ashford in Kent, the company revealed today.

The trial, which we flagged last week, is basically of a bandwidth-on-demand system – you get 100Mbits/sec when you need it, for instance to download movies.

NTL staged a demonstration at a show flat in Pimlico, London, in which the system delivered three high-definition TV streams simultaneously, leaving bandwidth to spare for other internet uses.

Feds Probe Web Sites Offering Big Paydays

Via CNN/Money.

Federal and state authorities are investigating Web sites that promise to generate generous returns to viewers who look at their ads, according to a report published Friday.

These so-called "auto surf" sites are Internet versions of a classic Ponzi scheme, a type of fraud that promises vast returns to investors but pays them with money from subsequent investors instead of revenue generated by business, the Wall Street Journal said.

Man Sought in Burglaries During Which He Ate, Checked e-Mail

An AP newswire article, via the La Crosse (Wisconsin) Tribune:

Authorities were seeking Thursday a burglar who allegedly took the time to make coffee, cook and eat meals, take showers, pick out a change of clothes, watch television and check his e-mail while inside three rural Washington County homes this month.

"He took clothes and meals," Sheriff Brian Rahn said. "Whatever he was finding in those refrigerators, he was filling up on it."

Sheriff's Department Capt. Dale Schmidt said investigators believe they knows who the burglar is, but he said authorities have not been able to find him since he took a car from the last of the homes that was entered. Schmitz said the man is believed to have left the area.

The burglar left behind other valuables, including jewelry, firearms and electronic equipment, Rahn said. Fix

Via Enjoy!

NTT Develops Secure Instant Messaging System

Martyn Williams writes on InfoWorld:

Engineers at NTT Communications have developed a secure instant-messaging system that supports logging and archiving of messages to satisfy compliance regulations and can interact with some third-party instant messaging networks.

The system, which is expected to go on sale in Japan and overseas sometime in the year from April, has at its heart an instant messaging server through which all communication passes.

Links between the server and IM clients use Transport Layer Security (TLS) to guard against eavesdropping or spoofing and the server can archive copies of all messages to satisfy provisions of compliance regulations, such as the Sarbanes-Oxley Act, said Hiromichi Kasahara, a senior manager at NTT Communications' innovative IP architecture center, in an interview.

U.S. Government to Survey Businesses on Cyber-Crime

A Reuters newswire article, via eWeek, reports that:

The U.S. government said Feb. 9 it will launch its first national survey to estimate how much cyber-crime is costing American businesses.

The Justice Department and the Department of Homeland Security will try to measure the number of cyber-attacks, frauds and thefts of information and the resulting losses during 2005, officials said in a statement.

The survey, to be completed by year-end, will collect information about the nature and extent of computer security violations, the monetary costs, types of offenders and computer security measures now used by companies.

EFF: Google Copies Your Hard Drive - Government Smiles in Anticipation

Via The EFF.

Google today [9 February 2006] announced a new "feature" of its Google Desktop software that greatly increases the risk to consumer privacy. If a consumer chooses to use it, the new "Search Across Computers" feature will store copies of the user's Word documents, PDFs, spreadsheets and other text-based documents on Google's own servers, to enable searching from any one of the user's computers. EFF urges consumers not to use this feature, because it will make their personal data more vulnerable to subpoenas from the government and possibly private litigants, while providing a convenient one-stop-shop for hackers who've obtained a user's Google password.

"Coming on the heels of serious consumer concern about government snooping into Google's search logs, it's shocking that Google expects its users to now trust it with the contents of their personal computers," said EFF Staff Attorney Kevin Bankston. "Unless you configure Google Desktop very carefully, and few people will, Google will have copies of your tax returns, love letters, business records, financial and medical files, and whatever other text-based documents the Desktop software can index. The government could then demand these personal files with only a subpoena rather than the search warrant it would need to seize the same things from your home or business, and in many cases you wouldn't even be notified in time to challenge it. Other litigants—your spouse, your business partners or rivals, whoever—could also try to cut out the middleman (you) and subpoena Google for your files."

The privacy problem arises because the Electronic Communication Privacy Act of 1986, or ECPA, gives only limited privacy protection to emails and other files that are stored with online service providers—much less privacy than the legal protections for the same information when it's on your computer at home. And even that lower level of legal protection could disappear if Google uses your data for marketing purposes. Google says it is not yet scanning the files it copies from your hard drive in order to serve targeted advertising, but it hasn't ruled out the possibility, and Google's current privacy policy appears to allow it.

More here.

Worm Propagation Strategies in an IPv6 Internet

Thanks to Bruce Schneier, who writes over on his blog:

Nice paper that dispels the myth that worms won't be able to propagate under IPv6, because the address space will be too sparse.

This excellent paper [.pdf] is authored by Steve Bellovin, Bill Cheswick, and Angelos Keromytis.


Security Breach Fallout Reaches 200,000 Debit Card Holders

David Lazarus writes on

A data-security breach that resulted in numerous people having their debit cards canceled this week is actually much larger than first indicated.

As first reported in my Thursday column, an unspecified number of Bank of America customers have received letters warning that accounts may have been compromised "at a third-party location unrelated to Bank of America."

BofA has said only that the unnamed company is not a bank affiliate.

But well-placed sources within the banking and credit card industries now tell me that the company in question is a leading retailer in the office-supply business.

Those sources also place the total number of consumers affected by the security breach at nearly 200,000.

Patriot Act Compromise Clears Way for Senate Vote

Charles Babington writes in The Washington Post:

Efforts to extend the USA Patriot Act cleared a major hurdle yesterday when the White House and key senators agreed to revisions that are virtually certain to secure Senate passage and likely to win House approval, congressional leaders said.

The law -- passed in the wake of the 2001 terrorist attacks and scheduled to lapse in key areas last year -- makes it easier for federal agents to secretly tap phones, obtain library and bank records, and search the homes of suspected terrorists. Several Democrats said the compromise announced yesterday lacks important civil liberties safeguards, and even the Republican negotiators said they had to yield to the administration on several points.

Much more here.

Thursday, February 09, 2006

Canadian Campus Police Take Sides In Islam Cartoon Issue

Steve Janke writes on Angry in The Great White North:

Shocking. Not surprising, perhaps, given Canada's tradition in recent years to value inoffensiveness over individual freedom, but I'm idealistic enough to to still be shocked:

The Cadre, UPEI's student newspaper has published the twelve infamous editorial cartoons that criticized aspects of Islam.

At the request of president Wade MacLauchlan, university administrators have removed all 2,000 copies of the paper from campus.

More here.

Due Diligence: Share the Burden

Click for the entire story.

Death Knell: Blu-Ray DVDs To Cost About 20% More

Sue Zeidler writes for Reuters:

Sony Pictures on Thursday disclosed prices for movies on its new Blu-ray DVD format, setting a target range seen as a 15-to-20 percent premium to the current DVD standard.

Blu-ray is locked in a multibillion-dollar standards war against a rival DVD format known as HD DVD. Analysts see the new pricing as an aggressive move by the studio owned by Sony Corp.

Fresh U.S. Outrage at Yahoo! Ahead of China Hearings

A Reuters newswire article by Joel Rothstein and Eric Auchard, via Yahoo! News, reports that:

U.S. Internet companies faced fresh bipartisan criticism in the Congress on Thursday following heightened controversy over Yahoo Inc.'s alleged role in the Chinese government's eight-year prison sentence against a second dissident.

"I don't like any American company ratting out a citizen for speaking out against their government," Rep. Tim Ryan, an Ohio Democrat and member of the House Human Rights Subcommittee, told Reuters on Thursday.

"This is the tip of the iceberg of a very oppressive regime that we have almost become accustomed to America," Rep. Chris Smith, a Republican and chairman of the House Human Rights Subcommittee, told Reuters.

The storm over Western media companies' compliance with China's policies comes before next week's hearing by Smith's committee where lawmakers from both parties are expected to grill representatives from Yahoo, Google Inc., Microsoft Corp. and Cisco Systems Inc..

"There are probably others (dissidents) that we need to find out about. We are going to make sure it doesn't get swept under the rug," Smith said.

E-Mails at the Heart of Lobbyist Disclosures

Dude! What's up with the hat and trenchcoat?!?
Jack Abramoff leaves federal court in Washington on Jan. 3
after pleading guilty to federal charges of conspiracy, tax evasion and mail fraud.

Image source: MSNBC / Gerald Herbert / AP file

A Reuters newswire article, via MSNBC, reports that:

Jack Abramoff said in correspondence made public Thursday that President Bush met him “almost a dozen” times, disputing White House claims Bush did not know the former lobbyist at the center of a corruption scandal.

“The guy saw me in almost a dozen settings, and joked with me about a bunch of things, including details of my kids. Perhaps he has forgotten everything, who knows,” Abramoff wrote in an e-mail to Kim Eisler, national editor for the Washingtonian magazine.

Abramoff added that Bush also once invited him to his Texas ranch.

Much, much more (probably more than you want to know) here.

Fortune: Is Slashdot the Future of Media?

A Fortune Magazine article by David Kirkpatrick, via CNN/Money, reports that:

If you want to see the future of media, go to

Two things distinguish it -- it's the most popular news and information site with the tech cognoscenti, particularly programmers and engineers. And all of its content is created by its users. They submit about 700 stories per day, which staff editors vet and reduce down to the 30-35 that get published. Of the site's 5.5 million unique visitors per month, about 25 percent post comments about those stories.

More here.

Update: TSA’s Secure Flight Program Suspended

Not only was the Secure Flight program blasted by the GAO, it has been suspended altogether!

An AP newswire article, via MSNBC, reports that:

An ambitious program to check every domestic airline passenger’s name against government terrorist watch lists may not be immune from hackers, a congressional investigator said Thursday.

And because of security concerns, the government is going back to the drawing board with the program called Secure Flight after spending nearly four years and $150 million on it, the Senate Commerce Committee was told.

Transportation Security Administration chief Kip Hawley did not say whether any security breaches had been discovered. An agency spokeswoman, Amy von Valter, told reporters, “We don’t believe any passenger information has been compromised.”

More here.

Texas AG Files Suit Against Sellers Of Private Phone Records

Via the web site of Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott.

Texas Attorney General Greg Abbott today filed the state’s first lawsuit against a “data broker” and his companies – USA Skiptrace, AMS Research Services Inc. and Worldwide Investigations Inc. – for fraudulently marketing consumers’ private phone records. The suit comes in the aftermath of Attorney General Abbott announcing his broad investigation into several of these Web-based businesses last month.

The Attorney General is also seeking a temporary restraining order today against the Web-based businesses, found at, and president John Strange of Denver. The businesses must answer to several allegations outlined in Attorney General Abbott’s suit, including openly soliciting services for a fee of at least $125 to produce private cell or land-line phone records, business or personal.

More here.

Source: Sony BMG Close to Leadership Change

A Reuters newswire article, via eWeek, reports that:

Sony Corp. and Bertelsmann AG are close to announcing a change in leadership of their joint Sony BMG Music Entertainment venture to resolve a dispute between the two companies, a source familiar with the situation said on Thursday.

The source said Andrew Lack, chief executive officer of Sony BMG Music Entertainment, and Rolf Schmidt-Holtz, its chairman, are expected to change roles.

A spokeswoman for German media giant Bertelsmann declined to comment, while a spokesman for Sony BMG was unavailable.

China's Fight With Falun Gong

Richard C. Morais writes on

The shocking reenactments of torture in front of Pennsylvania Station in New York and the Chinese Embassy in London publicly make the point: Falun Gong, a popular spiritual movement brutally suppressed by the Chinese Communist Party, is effectively waging its counterwar against the Chinese government, from the West.

Overseas Falun Gong practitioners are, for example, leading an underground campaign to hack China's Internet firewalls, to counter the Chinese Communist Party's news blackout and propaganda in the Middle Kingdom. But there are many skirmishes between Chinese communism and Chinese spiritualism taking place on U.S. soil.

Much more here.

'Secure Flight' Program Comes Under Fire From GAO

This is a good time to mention

Michael Arnone writes on

The Government Accountability Office and the airline industry slammed the Transportation Security Administration in a congressional hearing on the agency's two main passenger-screening programs.

TSA has made progress on Secure Flight, which is designed to screen out terrorists from airline passengers, but management problems persist, said Cathleen Berrick, director of homeland security and justice at GAO.

In its rush to push out Secure Flight, TSA has neglected to define systems requirements for Secure Flight or follow its own or industry best practices for information technology systems development, Berrick said.

More here.

New from Google Labs: Google Information Security Catastrophe

John Paczkowski writes over on Good Morning, Silicon Valley (GMSV):

Given Google's recent encounter with the Department of Justice, does it honestly think we'll allow it to copy and store the contents of our hard drives even for the shortest of times? Because that's what we need to do to avail ourselves of one of the feature enhancements the search sovereign just added to its Desktop application.

Google Desktop 3.0 boasts a “Search Across Computers” function that allows it to search for items stored on multiple computers simultaneously. That's a compelling feature for those of us who use multiple computers, but one that works only if you agree to allow Google to store your hard drive index locally on its servers. For up to 30 days.

Microsoft Buys FutureSoft Web Filtering Software

Elizabeth Montalbano writes on InfoWorld:

Microsoft Corp. Thursday said it was buying Web filtering software called DynaComm i:filter from FutureSoft Inc.

The company also released a generally available beta of the next version of its firewall and VPN (virtual private network) product, Internet Security and Acceleration (ISA) Server 2006, and launched limited customer beta programs for both its Microsoft Client Protection and Microsoft Antigen for Exchange, according to Ted Kummert, corporate vice president for the Security, Access and Solutions Division at Microsoft.

February 12: Darwin’s Birthday Evolves Into Holiday

An AP newswire article by Kathy Matheson, via MSNBC, reports that:

Thanks to the "intelligent design" movement, Charles Darwin's birthday is evolving into everything from a badminton party to church sermons this weekend.

Defenders of Darwin's theory of natural selection are planning hundreds of events around the world Sunday, the 197th anniversary of his birth, saying recent challenges to the teaching of evolution have re-emphasized the need to promote his work.

"The people who believe in evolution ... really just sort of need to stand up and be counted," said Richard Leventhal, director of the University of Pennsylvania's Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology. "Evolution is the model that drives science. It's time to recognize that."

More here.

Agreement Reached on Patriot Act Extension

An AP newswire article, via MSNBC, reports that:

A band of Senate Republican holdouts reached agreement with the White House Thursday on minor changes in the Patriot Act, hoping to clear the way for passage of anti-terrorism legislation that has been stalled in a dispute over protection of civil liberties.

Sen. John Sununu, R-N.H., and three other GOP lawmakers — all of whom joined with Democrats last year to block a long-term extension of the law — were to announce their accord with the administration in a late-afternoon news conference.

One GOP official, who spoke on condition of anonymity, said the legislation had been rewritten to make it clear that an individual receiving a so-called National Security Letter was not required to notify the FBI if he consulted a lawyer.

This official also said a second proposed change would clarify that only libraries that are “electronic service providers” could be required to provide information to government agents as part of a terrorist investigation.

Patch Tuesday: 7 Patches for Microsoft

Via Microsoft's February 2006 Advance Notification.

On 14 February 2006 Microsoft is planning to release:

Security Updates

  • One Microsoft Security Bulletin affecting Microsoft Windows Media Player. The highest Maximum Severity rating for this is Critical. These updates will not require a restart. These updates will be detectable using the Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer and the Enterprise Scanning Tool.
  • Four Microsoft Security Bulletins affecting Microsoft Windows. The highest Maximum Severity rating for these is Critical. Some of these updates will require a restart. These updates will be detectable using the Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer.
  • One Microsoft Security Bulletin affecting Microsoft Windows and Microsoft Office. The highest Maximum Severity rating for these is Important. These updates will require a restart. These updates will be detectable using the Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer.
  • One Microsoft Security Bulletin affecting Microsoft Office. The highest Maximum Severity rating for this is Important. These updates may require a restart. These updates will be detectable using the Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer.

Verizon CEO Backs Off Executive's Google Slam

Dan Frommer writes on

Verizon Communications Chief Executive Ivan Seidenberg retreated from a vice president's sharp statements panning search giant Google but affirmed the telecom industry’s desire for new revenue from Internet content companies.

Seidenberg says the market--not the government--needs to decide who will help subsidize the billions of dollars telcos like Verizon are spending to bury fiber-optic pipe across the U.S.

"I love what Google is doing to the extent that they generate more use of broadband," Seidenberg said Thursday. But he added that additional government network regulation is a ruse and that people are trying to "box in" carriers to provide services for free.

Much more here.

Telecom Execs Asked to Explain Cooperation in Wiretaps

Jeffrey Silva writes on RCR Wireless News:

Two powerful Senate Democrats asked executives of three telecom giants with major mobile phone units to turn over information on their alleged participation in the Bush administration's warrantless domestic surveillance program.

Sens. Edward Kennedy (D-Mass.) and Russ Feingold (D-Wis.), members of the Senate Judiciary Committee, sent letters requesting company documents to Edward Witacre, chairman of AT&T Inc., which owns 60 percent of Cinglular Wireless L.L.C.; Gary Forsee, president of Sprint Nextel Corp.; and Ivan Seidenberg, chairman of Verizon Communications Inc., which is the majority owner of Verizon Wireless.

Another Ultra-Cool Gadget: I-O Data Double-DVD Device

Image source: Gizmodo

Via Gizmodo.

Here’s a double-decker DVD burner from I-O Data that lets you copy a disk from one of its TEAC DV-W28SL burners to the other with no PC in sight. You can also plug this model DVR-UW8DP into your computer via USB 2.0, and use it as a normal pair of drives.

You’ll pay dearly for the privilege: at $448, but the thing looks rather cool with the two discs hanging halfway out and that swanky blue light underneath the power switch. Wait a couple of months and it’ll probably cost a c-note.

Wanted: Competent Big Brothers

Michael Hirsh writes in Newsweek:

It all sounds frighteningly Orwellian. But the truth is that, for all the hue and cry over American civil liberties, we are a long way from Big Brother today. In fact, we could probably use a little more Big Brother about now.

After four and a half years, our intelligence and national-security apparatus still hasn’t learned how to track terrorists, and the Bush administration has put forward little more than cosmetic reforms.

Much, much more here.

More Serious Stuff: A Beer Dispensing PC

I'm thirsty!

Via OHGizmo!

If a beer dispensing case mod is not the most incredible and delicious hack known to man, then I don’t know what is.

More Surveillance Puts Strain on Carriers

Christopher Rhoads writes on the

After the 2001 terrorist attacks, retired Federal Bureau of Investigation agent Michael Warren saw that many phone and Internet companies would need help meeting an expected jump in law-enforcement requests for customer calling and email information.

His prediction proved correct. Mr. Warren formed a company that won business from telecom, cable and Internet-service providers around the U.S. Last year, he sold the business for an undisclosed amount.

"There's been a significant increase in demand and pressure on companies for providing records, tracing calls and wiretapping," said Mr. Warren, now a vice president for fiduciary services at NeuStar Inc. of Sterling, Va., which bought his company. "That's led to a great deal of strain on carriers."

Often overlooked amid the controversy over the legality of the Bush administration's eavesdropping without warrants is a huge increase in recent years in the number of wiretaps conducted with court approval. Smaller telecom companies in particular have sought help from outsiders in order to comply with the court-ordered subpoenas, touching off a scramble among third parties to meet the demand for assistance.

German Labor Union Backs Off Deutsche Telekom Deal

An AP newswire article by Matt Moore, via, reports that:

The German labor union ver.di on Thursday backed off a tentative agreement with Deutsche Telekom AG over the company's plans to cut thousands of jobs through 2008.

Bonn-based Deutsche Telekom said in November that it planned to cut 32,000 jobs as part of a 3.3 billion euros ($3.9 billion) plan to restructure its operation and rein in expenses.

The service workers' union ver.di said Wednesday it had reached a compromise with Deutsche Telekom negotiators about the package of cuts, but neither the union nor the company released any details.

Secret Court's Judges Were Warned About NSA Spy Data

Carol D. Leonnig writes in The Washington Post:

Twice in the past four years, a top Justice Department lawyer warned the presiding judge of a secret surveillance court that information overheard in President Bush's eavesdropping program may have been improperly used to obtain wiretap warrants in the court, according to two sources with knowledge of those events.

The revelations infuriated U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly -- who, like her predecessor, Royce C. Lamberth, had expressed serious doubts about whether the warrantless monitoring of phone calls and e-mails ordered by Bush was legal. Both judges had insisted that no information obtained this way be used to gain warrants from their court, according to government sources, and both had been assured by administration officials it would never happen.

Much more here.

Google Grabs Even More Ground in Internet Search

An AFP newswire article, via Yahoo! News, reports that:

Google has gained more ground against its Internet search rivals and now accounts for nearly half of all online searches in the United States, a survey showed.

The survey by Nielsen/NetRatings showed Google accounted for 48.8 percent of all US search requests in December 2005, up from 43.1 percent a year earlier.

Google's closest rival, Yahoo, saw its share dip to 21.4 percent from 21 percent. The number three search engine, Microsoft's MSN Search, lost 3.1 percentage points to 10.9 percent.

AOL, Yahoo! Follow Bill Gates: 'We Don't See No Steenking Spam'

Via eMail Battles.

Unless you sleep under a rock, you've heard that AOL and Yahoo have decided to open their very own postal service for spammers. Pony up half a penny per message and you, too, can send unwanted email with guaranteed delivery that bypasses spam filters.

Yahoo's Antispam Product Manager Miles Libbey claims the Goodmail service is aimed at de-phishing transactional messages, like financial docs. As an apparent afterthought, Libbey muses, "We need to ensure that the spammers don't sign up for the service." (Who's a spammer? Anybody who doesn't buy the service.)

AOL's chief web strategist Barry Appelman agrees. He's convinced himself that adding a new revenue source will somehow magically "widen the gap between the amount of good email we want our users to get and the dwindling amount of bad email they might get." (Huh?)

More here.

Political Jab of the Day: Cartoon Politics

Click for larger image.

Oracle Expected to Cut More Than 1,000 Jobs

An AP newswire article by Michael Liedtke, via, reports that:

Business software maker Oracle Corp. will announce more than 1,000 job cuts Thursday as it outlines a course for harvesting higher profits from its recent $5.85 billion takeover of rival Siebel Systems Inc., a person familiar with the plans said.

The cuts, to be revealed during an afternoon conference call with industry analysts, have been widely anticipated since Redwood Shores, Calif.-based Oracle announced the acquisition five months ago.

VeriSign to Buy Snapcentric for Fraud Detection

Paul F. Roberts writes on eWeek:

Security and communications company VeriSign is buying Snapcentric, a maker of transaction monitoring software that can spot fraud, phishing attacks and other threats, according to a company executive.

Details of the purchase were still being resolved late Feb. 8, and VeriSign said it plans to disclose details of the purchase Feb. 9.

Telstra Profit Drops as Users Switch to Cellphones and Web

A Bloomberg News article, via The International Herald Tribune, reports that:

The telephone company Telstra said on Thursday that first-half profit fell 11 percent as customers abandoned its fixed-line business for cheaper cellphones and Internet services.

The chief executive officer, Sol Trujillo, affirmed his forecast that full-year pretax profit would be down as much as 26 percent on costs of eliminating jobs and on declining home-phone usage. Telstra shares have lost 20 percent since Trujillo, a former US West chief executive, started in July, forcing the government to lower the amount it expects to receive for selling its remaining stake.

Gadget of the Day: The Data Fortress

Image source: Gizmodo

Via Gizmodo.

A spry tipster just pointed us towards the Data Fortress, a steel-encased hard drive that can hold up to 640 GB and is completely fire-, water-, impact-, earthquake-, and ninja-proof. It can withstand heat up up to 1550 degrees Fahrenheit for about 30 minutes and looks like a great way to keep backup data safe and sound in deluge, mudslide, and fire-prone areas.

It’s apparently computer virus-proof, as well, but that seems something far more difficult to guarantee.

Bill Would Force Web Sites to Delete Personal Info

Declan McCullagh writes on C|Net News:

A bill just announced in Congress would require every Web site operator to delete information about visitors, including e-mail addresses, if the data is no longer required for a "legitimate" business purpose.

The proposal, introduced Wednesday by Rep. Ed Markey, seeks to import European-style privacy regulations by imposing a broad data-deletion requirement. It would apply to every U.S. Web site, even ones run by individuals, bloggers or nonprofit groups and charities.

Markey said the measure would help stop identity theft. "This warehoused personal information about consumers' Internet use should not be needlessly stored to await compromise by data thieves or fraudsters, or disclosure through judicial fishing expeditions," the Massachusetts Democrat said in a statement.

More here.

User Friendly: More Google World Domination


Click for larger image.

U.S. Plans Massive Data Sweep

Mark Clayton writes in The Christian Science Monitor:

The US government is developing a massive computer system that can collect huge amounts of data and, by linking far-flung information from blogs and e-mail to government records and intelligence reports, search for patterns of terrorist activity.

The system - parts of which are operational, parts of which are still under development - is already credited with helping to foil some plots. It is the federal government's latest attempt to use broad data-collection and powerful analysis in the fight against terrorism. But by delving deeply into the digital minutiae of American life, the program is also raising concerns that the government is intruding too deeply into citizens' privacy.

Much more here.

Google Sued for Selling 'Check 'n Go' Keyword


The company behind a US cash-advance firm called Check ‘n Go has sued Google for selling its trade marks as keywords in search advertising, according to the Cincinnati Enquirer. Such sales do not breach Google's own policy for the US and Canada.

The dispute has been brought by parent company CNG Financial Corp over Google's AdWords service. The service allows advertisers to sponsor particular search terms so that, whenever that search term is entered, the ad will appear next to users' search results under a list of 'sponsored links'. When the ad is clicked, the sponsor is charged.

White House Discloses Details on Surveillance

Declan McCullagh writes on C|Net News:

In a sign that political pressure from other Republicans is having an effect, the White House on Wednesday disclosed details about its domestic spying program in a secret meeting with members of a House of Representatives intelligence panel.

The briefing by Attorney General Alberto Gonzales and intelligence adviser Michael Hayden represents a rare concession for the Bush administration, which has closely guarded the operational details about how eavesdropping is done and previously had discussed them only with a few congressional leaders.

Some BofA Clients Find Debit Cards Cancelled

David Lazarus writes on

Numerous Bank of America customers have had their debit cards canceled and have been blocked from accessing their accounts online after an unnamed company experienced what appears to be a major security breach.

BofA is refusing to identify the company, saying in letters to customers this week only that the breach occurred "at a third-party location unrelated to Bank of America."

This is unusual. Past data-security breaches involving financial institutions have centered on systems being compromised at either bank offices or those of affiliated firms.

Michael Chee, a BofA spokesman, confirmed Wednesday that the breach in this latest case wasn't at a processing center used by the bank or any other affiliate.

More here.

E-Mail, Blogs, Text Messages Propel Anger Over Images

Kevin Sullivan writes in The Washington Post:

Mohammad Fouad Barazi, a prominent Muslim cleric here, received a text message on his cell phone last week. It was a mass mailing from an anonymous sender, he said, warning that Danish people were planning to burn the Koran that Saturday in Copenhagen's City Hall Square out of anger over Muslim demonstrations against Danish cartoons of the prophet Muhammad.

Hundreds of people -- Muslims and ethnic Danes -- turned out in response to the messages and the rampant rumors they sparked, and by the end of Saturday, police had arrested 179 people. In the end, no Koran was burned.

More here.

Japan Internet Suicide Deaths Soar to 91 in 2005

A Reuters newswire article by Elaine Lies, via Yahoo! News, reports that:

The number of Japanese killing themselves in groups after meeting through the Internet -- strangers afraid to die alone -- soared to a record 91 last year, nearly double that of 2004, police said on Thursday.

The deadly pacts pose a grim challenge for officials struggling to deal with Japan's high suicide rate, one of the worst among industrialised nations.

Britons Face 'Chip-and-Pin' Future in Fraud Fight

Via Reuters.

From next week, a signature will not be good enough to buy goods or services across Britain.

The deadline for shoppers to remember their debit and credit card pin numbers is Valentine's Day, next Tuesday. From then on, cardholders are no longer assured the option of signing to verify a purchase and may have their cards refused.

Banks and retailers have introduced chip-and-pin technology in recent years to halt rising card fraud, requiring an increasing number of shoppers to enter their four-digit PIN numbers to verify card purchases.

Wednesday, February 08, 2006

Yahoo! Considers 'Incentives' to Get People to Use Its Search Engine

I think my answer would be, "Stop turning people in to the Chinese government..."

Elinor Mills writes on the C|Net Yahoo! Blog:

Yahoo confirmed on Wednesday that it is polling some Yahoo Mail users about what they would want in exchange for making Yahoo their primary search engine. The survey was sent to a random sampling representing about 5 percent of its Yahoo Mail users, a Yahoo spokeswoman said.

"Yahoo! is cosidering launching a program to reward people who make Yahoo! their primary search engine. Yahoo! Mail users will be given early access to this program. You will receive a monthly reward if you make Yahoo! your primary search engine. This means that most of the searching you do each month must be on Yahoo! Search."

More details here.

Web Sites Hawking Phone Records Shut Down

An AP newswire article by Jennifer C. Kerr, via, reports that:

Following a wave of negative publicity and pressure from the government, several Web sites that peddled people's private phone records are calling it quits.

"We are no longer accepting new orders" was the announcement posted Wednesday on two such sites, and

"Thank you for your patronage. It was a pleasure serving you," the sites said.

The Federal Trade Commission this week conducted a sweep of 40 sites known to have been selling private phone records. According to the FTC's Lydia Parnes, more than 20 sites have recently shut down or stopped advertising for new business.

Toon: In the Name of Free Speech

Click for larger image.

Another Cyber-Dissident Imprisoned Because of Data Provided by Yahoo!

Via Reporters sans Frontières.

Reporters Without Borders today condemned the US firm Yahoo! for handing over data on one of its users in China which enabled the authorities there to send him to prison for eight years, the second such case that has come to light in recent months.

It called on Yahoo! to supply a list of all cyberdissidents it has provided data on, beginning with 81 people in China whose release the worldwide press freedom organization is currently campaigning for.

It said it had discovered that Yahoo ! customer and cyberdissident Li Zhi had been given his eight-year prison sentence in December 2003 based on electronic records provided by Yahoo. “How many more cases are we going to find ?” it asked.

“We were sure the case of Shi Tao, who was jailed for 10 years last April on the basis of Yahoo-supplied data, was not the only one. Now we know Yahoo works regularly and efficiently with the Chinese police.

Australia: A Collision of Policy and Profit in Telstra Sale

Donald Greenlees writes in The International Herald Tribune:

The last time the Australian government sold a stake in the majority state-owned telecommunications carrier, Telstra, thousands of small household investors, under the influence of the dot-com frenzy, rushed to pay 7.20 Australian dollars a share.

But suffering the fate of many legacy telecommunications carriers around the world - excessive costs, outdated networks and declining market share - the good times for Telstra were close to an end.

For most of the small investors, the 1999 share purchase burned a hole in their pocket. The big winner was the government, which walked away with 16 billion dollars, or $11.9 billion, for the sale of 16.6 percent of the company.

With Telstra shares closing at 4.03 dollars on Wednesday and its management warning of lower profit ahead, the government has little chance of attracting a similar stampede of investors or a financial windfall of the same scale if it pushes ahead with plans to sell the balance of its Telstra holding later this year.

The Trouble With VoIP

Scott Woolley writes on

Is running an Internet phone company a good business?

Vonage Holdings, the largest Internet phone company in the U.S., aims to convince investors it is, announcing plans today to go public and raise up to $250 million. At the same time, its prospectus provides a trove of new information about the financial struggles of a phone company that relies on the Internet instead of its own network to provide phone service.

In the three years and three months since Vonage began offering service, it has proved widely popular--and wildly unprofitable. Over 1.4 million customers have signed up; its subscriber rolls more than tripled last year alone. Cumulative losses over the company's brief life: $310 million.

More here.

SGI Warns That Bankruptcy Might Be Year-End Option

Ashlee Vance writes on Channel Register:

SGI issued its most ominous regulatory filing to date, warning that a bad 2006 could force the former high-flyer into bankruptcy.

In order to improve its business, SGI will consider measures ranging from axing or selling off product lines to pursuing "a strategic partner or acquirer." The hardware maker will basically look at anything and everything to remain a going concern.

They Saved the Internet's Soul

Ryan Singel writes on Wired News:

In some alternative universe out there, the world is using a very different internet. It's a network without sex and violence, devoid of four-letter words and racy ideas, subject to constant monitoring by censors and harsh punishment to those who cross the line into controversy.

It's the Taliban internet; the Kansas internet. It's the internet in a world in which the U.S. Supreme Court never overturned the 1996 Communications Decency Act -- the web's first and still most-sweeping U.S. censorship law, struck down after a legal challenge filed by civil liberties groups 10 years ago Wednesday.

"It was big stuff," said Marc Rotenberg, head of the Electronic Privacy Information Center, one of the groups that filed the case. "We were fighting to save the soul of the internet."

Lawmakers Struggle With How Neutral Networks Should Be

William Jackson writes on

Telecom reform is the top priority of Rep. Joe Barton (R-Texas), chairman of the House Energy and Commerce Committee. “We want to get a comprehensive telecom reform bill to the president’s desk this year,” Barton said. “There is no more important issue” to U.S. economic health, he added.

Barton, speaking Wednesday at the Congressional Internet Caucus’ State of the Internet Conference, said he hoped to introduce the bill this month. It will have to move quickly to see passage during this session.

“We don’t have that many legislative days this year,” he said. “It’s time to stop talking and start working. If we just wait on the Senate, I don’t see much happening.”

Reform probably is needed. The telecommunications and Internet industries have evolved quickly in the 10 years since the Telecom Reform Act of 1996, and much of that law is based on policy from the 1930s.

BellSouth: Let Providers Give Preferential Service

Grant Gross writes on InfoWorld:

Broadband providers need the right to enter into commercial agreements that allow some Web sites to perform better than rival sites, a BellSouth Corp. executive said Wednesday.

BellSouth, as the owner of a broadband network, should be able to charge extra for one search engine to return faster results than others that customers want to go to, said Bennett Ross, BellSouth's general counsel, speaking at the State of the 'Net conference in Washington, D.C.

The success of the Internet has been due to the U.S. government keeping its hands off the Internet, Ross said.

Others at the event, including "father" of the Internet Vinton Cerf, called on the U.S. Congress to pass a so-called net neutrality law, which would allow broadband customers to access any legal Web content and services and attach any legal device they want, while prohibiting broadband providers from giving their partners preferential service.

Brasil Telecom Trials Wireless Convergance

A UPI newsbrief, via, reports that:

Brasil Telecom has launched a trial of UTStarcom's fixed-mobile convergence solution in preparation for next-generation wireless services.

The trials in the capital Brasilia are a major test of UTStarcom's new Continuity end-to-end system in a market where cell-phone subscriptions top 12 million.

Bush Signs DTV Legislation

Jeffrey Silva writes on RCR Wireless News:

President Bush signed into law budget deficit legislation requiring TV broadcasters to surrender analog spectrum by Feb. 18, 2009, paving the way the redistribution of valuable frequencies to public safety and other wireless users.

The bill requires the Federal Communications Commission to auction 60 megahertz of the reclaimed spectrum by Jan. 28, 2008. The Congressional Budget Office estimates the auction of those airwaves could generate between $10 billion and $20 billion.

More details here.

FBI Probing Bulk Pre-Paid Cell Phone Purchases

Jefferey Silva writes on RCR Wireless News:

The FBI and Department of Homeland Security have advised state and local law enforcement officials to be alert for large purchases of prepaid cell phones, an FBI spokesman said.

The advisory follows an investigation of recent incidents in Texas, California and possibly other states in which individuals bought or tried to buy large quantities of prepaid cell phones.

An FBI-DHS bulletin went out yesterday to law enforcement officers across the country, an FBI spokesman said. The spokesman, who declined to release the bulletin, said the FBI probe found no clear terrorist ties to the purchases. However, he said FBI agents continue to run down leads of possible terrorist links in connection with bigger-than-normal purchases of prepaid cell phones.