Saturday, March 04, 2006

5 March 1904: Nikola Tesla Describes the Process of Ball Lightning Formation


Nikola Tesla
Image source: Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia.

Ball lightning is a natural phenomenon, or debatably, a pseudoscientific theory. It is sometimes associated with thunderstorms. It takes the form of a long-lived, glowing, floating object, as opposed to the short-lived arcing between two points commonly associated with lightning. An early attempt to explain ball lightning was recorded by Nikola Tesla on March 5, 1904 (Electrical World and Engineer).

Some laboratory experiments claim to produce ball lightning, but there is no consensus that the phenomenon reproduced is related to the natural one. The natural occurrences are, by their nature, difficult to document accurately. Consequently, many scientists continue to dispute the existence of ball lightning as a distinct physical phenomenon (see, for example, the review by Singer (2002)). In one such occurrence, Singer reports that staff at the Cavendish Laboratory, Cambridge apparently saw ball lightning, although Brian Pippard, the Head of Department, was skeptical on its reality (A. B. Pippard, (1982), Ball of Fire?, Nature v298, p702).

More here.

If you want to search for other "00:01" entries, just search for "00:01" in the blue toolbar search frame at the top of the blog.

My recurring "00:01" series is a pursuit to provide a memory of important things we should not forget in technology.

Dilbert: Stupid Fish

Click for larger image.

N.J. Assemblyman Introduced Bill to Force Online iIentification

Jason Schultz writes over on the Law Geek blog:

Peter J. Biondi, NJ Assemblyman for District 16, has introduced A1327, a bill to force every ISP and website with comments/forums to demand user identification from every single poster (called an "information content provider" in the bill). While ostensibly an effort to stop defamation on the net, the identification requirements apply to all posters, not just those who defame others:

2. The operator of any interactive computer service or an Internet service provider shall establish, maintain and enforce a policy to require any information content provider who posts written messages on a public forum website either to be identified by a legal name and address, or to register a legal name and address with the operator of the interactive computer service or the Internet service provider through which the information content provider gains access to the interactive computer service or Internet, as appropriate.

The bill also forces all ISP and websites to turn over that information upon demand to anyone who claims to have been defamed, without any legal process or protections.

Read more here.

Unconscious Hit-and-Run Victim Identified Through iPod

Michelle Meyers writes on the C|Net Apple Blog:

Various San Francisco-based new outlets reported this week that police identified an unconscious jogger, who was an apparent hit-run-victim, by contacting Apple Computer and getting information from the iPod she was carrying.

The 27-year-old woman was jogging early Thursday morning near the Presidio when she was apparently struck and thrown off the side of the road, according to news reports.

Apple declined to comment on or even confirm the story Friday, but NBC11 and others reported the woman was carrying no identification, so investigators took her iPod to the Apple store, which contacted headquarters. Apple helped identify the woman, we can only presume, through her iPod registration.

Pakistan Blocks Access to Blogs on Cartoons

Via The BBC.

Pakistan telecom authorities have blocked several websites inviting people to draw cartoons of the Prophet Muhammad, it has emerged.

Instructions were issued to internet service providers across Pakistan on 27 February to block about a dozen websites of various origins.

The ban comes amid protests in several Muslim countries against the cartoons, first published in Denmark last year.

H5N1 News: Say Goodbye to Cheap Chicken

Image source:

Deborah Mackensie writes in New Scientist:

If H5N1 bird flu takes hold, an entire livestock industry could face ruin - and it won't just be farmers who pay the price.

Disaster is looming for Europe's poultry. The European Union has just had its first outbreak of H5N1 bird flu in poultry, on a turkey farm in eastern France. It is unlikely to be the last. The virus has now been found in wild birds across Europe, and as spring migrants arrive from Africa virologists predict it could become endemic in European wild birds within two months.

Though effective vaccines exist to protect domestic birds from H5N1, the EU is refusing to allow their general use. Officials say that vaccination just masks the spread of the virus, making it diffcult to monitor and contain. If this policy continues, it will mean that any bird flu outbreak within the EU will have to be handled by culling infected animals and those nearby.

Suddenly, The Cell Phone Industry Is All Ears?

Right -- I'll believe it when I see it.

Matt Richtel writes in The New York Times:

Across the wireless phone industry, there is a feeling of urgency. The big cellphone companies are eager to improve their customer support and service, an area that was an afterthought just a short time ago.

From computer makers to credit card issuers to airlines, customer service is a vital aspect of attracting and retaining business, but few industries do it as poorly as cellphone companies, says Jon Anton, director of the Center for Customer-Driven Quality at Purdue University. Their services are so bad that they "are inefficient at being ineffective," Mr. Anton said.

More here.

‘Cyberlibel' Cases Mount With Rising Popularity of Blogs

A Canadian Press article, via The Globe and Mail, reports that:

A woman who made disparaging comments about her landlord on her Internet blog has become the latest person to discover what can happen when cyberspace and legal realities collide.

Sarah Dawe is facing eviction for her postings related to an ongoing dispute with Homestead Land Holdings Inc.

More here.

Friday, March 03, 2006

4 March 1789: Government Under The U.S. Consitution Begins


The Constitution of The United States of America.
Image source: Wikipedia

First, a few personal thoughts.

So what happened to the values embodied by these eloquent words in the Preamble of the U.S. Constitution?

We the People of the United States, in Order to form a more perfect Union, establish Justice, insure domestic Tranquility, provide for the common defence, promote the general Welfare, and secure the Blessings of Liberty to ourselves and our Posterity, do ordain and establish this Constitution for the United States of America.

These days, amidst so much inherent poltical turmoil, unscrupulous representatives in public office, and inept administrative oversight of our country, each and every citizen should really think about the ideals set forth in our consitutonal framework by the founding fathers.

Via The History Channel Online.

The first session of the U.S. Congress is held in New York City as the U.S. Constitution takes effect. However, of the 22 senators and 59 representatives called to represent the 11 states who had ratified the document, only nine senators and 13 representatives showed up to begin negotiations for its amendment.

In 1786, defects in the Articles of Confederation became apparent, such as the lack of central authority over foreign and domestic commerce and the inability of Congress to levy taxes, leading Congress to endorse a plan to draft a new constitution. On September 17, 1787, at the conclusion of the Constitutional Convention in Philadelphia, the new U.S. Constitution, creating a strong federal government with an intricate system of checks and balances, was signed by 38 of 41 delegates to the convention.

As dictated by Article VII, the document would not become binding until it was ratified by nine of the 13 states. The Constitution was thus sent to the state legislatures, and beginning on December 7, five states--Delaware, Pennsylvania, New Jersey, Georgia, and Connecticut--ratified it in quick succession. However, other states, especially Massachusetts, opposed the document for its failure to reserve powers not delegated by the Constitution to the states and its lack of constitutional protection for such basic political rights as freedom of speech, religion, and the press, and the right to bear arms.

In February 1788, a compromise was reached in which Massachusetts and other states agreed to ratify the document with the assurance that amendments would immediately be adopted. The Constitution was thus narrowly ratified in Massachusetts, followed by Maryland and South Carolina. On June 21, 1788, New Hampshire became the ninth state to ratify the document, making it binding, and government under the U.S. Constitution was scheduled to begin on March 4, 1789.

On September 25, 1789, after several months of debate, the first Congress of the United States adopted 12 amendments to the U.S. Constitution--the Bill of Rights--and sent them to the states for ratification. This action led to the eventual ratification of the Constitution by the last of the 13 original colonies: North Carolina and Rhode Island.

Reacquaint yourself with the framework for our society.

If you don't know what you have, you'll never know when its taken away from you.

Link here.

If you want to searchg for other "00:01" entries, just search for "00:01" in the blue toolbar search frame at the top of the blog.

In my recurring "00:01" series -- a pursuit to provide a memory of important things we should not forget in technology -- I give you todays entry.

Microsoft: 'No Backdoors in Vista'

Joris Evers writes on C|Net News:

Windows Vista won't have a backdoor that could be used by police forces to get into encrypted files, Microsoft has stressed.

In February, a BBC News story suggested that the British government was in discussions with Microsoft over backdoor access to the operating system. A backdoor is a method of bypassing normal authentication to gain access to a computer without to the PC user knowing.

But Microsoft has now quelled the suggestion that law enforcement might get such access.

"Microsoft has not and will not put "backdoors" into Windows," a company representative said in a statement sent via e-mail.

More here.

More: Fix

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Adelphia Founder's Son Sentenced

An AP newswire article by Larry Neumeister, via, reports that:

A son of Adelphia Communications Corp. founder John Rigas was sentenced Friday to 10 months home confinement by a judge who said he was "close to being a pawn" in a family-run cable television business portrayed as a house of fraud.

Michael Rigas, 52, was sentenced in U.S. District Court in Manhattan after pleading guilty to a charge of making a false entry in a company record, eliminating the need for his retrial on much more serious securities fraud and bank fraud charges.

A slap on the wrist. More here.

Political Correctness Alert: 'English Speaking American'

Image source:

Tech angle: None.

I originally heard abouy this stunning stupidity on CNN this evening when I got home from work -- I'm just flabbergasted at the sheer idiocy of the original complaint.

For your perusal -- David Bernstein writes on The Volokh Conspiracy:

Arapahoe County is threatening to fire a veteran Public Works employee for promoting the fact that he is an English speaking American."They claim it's offensive and I've been accused of discrimination and harassment, believe it or not, because of this," said Mike Gray, a heavy equipment operator with the Arapahoe County Road and Bridge Department for 16 years. The problems began last spring. Gray, 50, owns a lawn service business on the side. He was routinely driving to work in his pickup truck towing a trailer that he uses to carry lawn mowing equipment for his business. On the side of his trailer, the married father of two affixed a sign that reads "Lawn Services Done With Pride!! By An English Speaking American."The sign also gives Gray's phone number and the lettering is over a background of an American flag."There are a lot of people in the lawn service that are non-English speaking," Gray said. "Customers and different people were telling me that they have a hard time trying to communicate with them about the work they want done on their yards. I just want to let people know they at least can communicate with me when I do work on their property." Gray also wore a hat to work that says "U.S. Border Patrol," which he says was a gift from his son.

Arapahoe County officials told Gray the sign and hat must go or else. In a Nov. 10, 2005, letter, his supervisor Monty Sedlak wrote the following: "Some of your conduct ... is reprehensible and discriminatory to our non-English speaking and/or Hispanic workforce. You are in violation of ... guidelines which ensure a workplace free from harassment and sensitive to the diversity of employees." "You are required to permanently remove your cap from the workplace. It is offensive and harassing. Your business sign, if on work premises, must be completely covered at all times. This behavior is inappropriate and any further incidents of this nature may result in further disciplinary action up to and including termination of employment."

More here.

Mobile Industry Doesn’t Understand Its Own Customers

I feel so vindicated. Something that I have been saying for over a year (but Om says it much better), Om Malik writes over on his Next Generation blog:

Imagine a conversation between a person who only knows Norwegian and other who is fluent only in Swahili. Well, that precisely the relationship between mobile industry and its executives and the consumers. RBC Capital Markets at its Mobility Evolution Conference in New York conducted an informal poll of 100 mobility experts, and found out that nearly 63% of those polled believed that consumers want to watch TV/movies on their mobile phones, while a whopping 72% believed that consumers would tolerate advertising on their cell phones.

This is the polar opposite of the findings of another RBC Capital Markets survey of 1,001 consumers released earlier this week. Only 23% of consumers expressed an interest in watching TV or Movies on their mobile phones. Only 20% of consumers said they would tolerate advertising, if an only if it lowered their costs. This is proof that consumers don’t care too much beyond - affordable and cheap voice plans, and simplicity.

Colorado College Warns 93,000 After Laptop Theft

Robert McMillan writes on NetworkWorld:

A state college in Denver believes it may have lost sensitive information on more than 93,000 students after one of the school's laptop computers was stolen from an employee's home late last month.

The unnamed employee of Metropolitan State College had been using the information, including student names and Social Security numbers, to write a grant proposal, the college said Thursday. The data, which appears to have been unencrypted, was also being used by the employee to write a master's degree thesis, the school said.

The laptop was stolen on Feb. 25, but Denver police asked the school to wait until March 1 to go public with news of the theft to help with the ongoing investigation. Students who registered for Metropolitan State courses between the 1996 fall semester and the 2005 summer semester are now being notified of the incident via letter, the college said.

More here.

Settlement Reached in BlackBerry Dispute

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

The maker of the BlackBerry e-mail device said Friday it settled its long-running patent dispute with a small Virginia-based firm, averting a possible court-ordered shutdown of the BlackBerry system and a disruption of wireless service for millions of users.

Research In Motion Ltd. has paid NTP $612.5 million in a "full and final settlement of all claims," the companies said.

More here.

Congress to Review Broadcast Flag for Audio

I'm ashamed that this Congress Critter has my same surname.

Declan McCullagh writes on C|Net News:

Digital radio receivers without government-approved copy-prevention technology likely would become illegal to sell in the future, according to new federal legislation announced Thursday.

Rep. Mike Ferguson, a New Jersey Republican, said his bill--which would enforce a so-called "broadcast flag" for digital and satellite audio receivers--was necessary to protect the music industry from the threat of piracy.

Ferguson's proposal would grant the Federal Communications Commission the power to enforce "prohibitions against unauthorized copying and redistribution" for both digital over-the-air radio and digital satellite receivers.

More here.

AOL Won't Charge Non-Profits for Bulk e-Mail

Greg Sandoval writes on C|Net News:

America Online intends to pick up the costs for nonprofit groups that wish to send e-mails to AOL members, a move that comes less than a week after a consortium spoke out against the company's plan to charge for a new bulk e-mail service.

Dulles, Va.-based AOL said Friday that it will offer nonprofit organizations two new free e-mail options that possess many of the features, including images and Web links, of the company's premium service designed for commercial mass e-mail.

More here.

Thursday, March 02, 2006

X-Ray Spex: Silicon Valley Firm's Tech Used to View 'Full Body Search'

SafeView Scanner
Image source: Silcion Beat/ Mercury News

Matt Marshall writes over on Silicon Beat:

There's a Santa Clara company called SafeView that we wrote about a few years ago that "sees under clothes."

It scans your body with millimeter wave technology and creates a 3-D image to reveal any hidden items. The computer images are powerful enough to show face-blushing details, but SafeView provides options to restore privacy, blurring certain areas with snowflake patterns, or blank them out entirely. At the time of our first writing about this in 2004, we suggested the VC investment in SafeView could possibly help protect our borders and planes against terrorists.

Our story mentioned the company's backers and ties to the Bush Administration.

More here.

NSA Spying Scandal Now Expands to Incoprorate 'Clarifications'

Yeah, right.

In other words (my paraphrase, of course):

"Senator, let me rephrase my previous answers to your questions. Yes, we're screwing over The Constitution of The United States of America. We have obviously re-interpreted the law and don't see any legal problems with our under-handed activities".

Glenn Greenwald writes on Unclaimed Territory:

Alberto Gonzales sent a letter [.pdf] to the Senate Judiciary Committee yesterday which contained what Gonzales called numerous "clarifications" of the testimony he gave on February 6 regarding the NSA program. What Gonzales actually did in this letter is identify numerous unambiguous statements to which he testified that were clearly false, and he "corrected" them in order to render them "true" in the narrowest, most legalistic, most misleading sense.

In doing so, he left no doubt that the Administration has been engaged in a series of false and misleading statements about their conduct as part of this scandal.

More here.

3 March 1885: Happy Birthday, American Telephone & Telegraph

AT&T's lines and metallic circuit connections. March 1, 1891.
Image source: Wikipedia

In my recurring "00:01" series -- a pursuit to provide a memory of important things we should not forget in technology -- I give you todays entry.

By the way, should you ever feel inclined to do so, you can always search for previous "00:01" entires by searching for them in the little blue "blogger search" toolbar in the top panel of the blog.

Just search for "00:01".

One additional note -- I'm so pissed off at the telcos right now, for various reasons, I almost used this graphic instead of the one above. Acually, this one is pretty good, too.

Via Wikipedia.

American Telephone and Telegraph was incorporated as a company in this day in 1885.

The formation of the Bell Telephone Company superseded an agreement between Alexander Graham Bell and his financiers, principal among them Gardiner G. Hubbard and Thomas Sanders. Renamed the National Bell Telephone Company in March 1877, it became the American Bell Telephone Company in March 1880. By 1881, it had bought a controlling interest in the Western Electric Company from Western Union. Only three years earlier, Western Union had turned down Gardiner Hubbard's offer to sell it all rights to the telephone for $100,000.

In 1880, the management of American Bell, created what would become AT&T Long Lines. The project was the first of its kind to create nationwide long-distance network with a commercially viable cost-structure. This project was formally incorporated into a separate company christened American Telephone and Telegraph Company on March 3, 1885. Starting from New York the network reached Chicago, Illinois in 1892.

Bell's patent on the telephone expired in 1894, but the company's much larger customer base made its service much more valuable than alternatives and substantial growth continued.

On December 30, 1899, the American Telephone and Telegraph Company bought the assets of American Bell--this was because Massachusetts corporate laws were very restrictive and limited capitalization to ten million dollars, forestalling the growth of American Bell itself.

National long distance service reached San Francisco in 1915. Transatlantic services started in 1927 using two-way radio, but the first trans-Atlantic telephone cable did not arrive until 1956, with TAT-1.

More here.

Social Security Numbers Found on State Websites

Jon Swartz writes in USA Today:

The disclosure of Ohio residents' Social Security numbers on the state government's website highlights what many privacy experts — and criminals — already know: Such information is readily available to anyone with an Internet connection.

It is common for the websites of the USA's secretaries of state to contain personal information, including Social Security numbers (SSNs) and home addresses, in business statements. Besides Ohio, the data is available in New York, Florida and at least seven other states, say privacy experts who provided USA TODAY with links to public websites.

More here.

Archivist Urges U.S. to Reopen Classified Files

Scott Shane writes in The New York Times:

After complaints from historians, the National Archives directed intelligence agencies on Thursday to stop removing previously declassified historical documents from public access and urged them to return to the shelves as quickly as possible many of the records they had already pulled.

Allen Weinstein, the nation's chief archivist, announced what he called a "moratorium" on reclassification of documents until an audit can be completed to determine which records should be secret.

A group of historians recently found that decades-old documents that they had photocopied years ago and that appeared to have little sensitivity had disappeared from the open files. They learned that in a program operated in secrecy since 1999, intelligence and security agencies had removed more than 55,000 pages that agency officials believed had been wrongly declassified.

More here.

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U.S. Senate Adopts Patriot Act Reauthorization Without Necessary Reforms

Via The ACLU.

The American Civil Liberties Union expressed profound disappointment with today’s Senate vote to reauthorize the Patriot Act without including common sense reforms to bring that law in line with the Constitution by restoring checks and balances.

The House is expected to adopt a bill next week to amend the Patriot Act reauthorization bill conference report it passed last December.

More here.

All Eyes on MySpace: Students Suspended for Viewing MySpace Posting

What the hell is going on with MySpace these days? It seems like every other (bad) story seems to center around this site. In any event, I give you...

An AP newswire article, via CNN, reporting that:

A middle school student faces expulsion for allegedly posting graphic threats against a classmate on the popular Web site, and 20 of his classmates were suspended for viewing the posting, school officials said.

Police are investigating the boy's comments about his classmate at TeWinkle Middle School as a possible hate crime, and the district is trying to expel him.

According to three parents of the suspended students, the invitation to join the boy's MySpace group gave no indication of the alleged threat. They said the MySpace social group name's was "I hate (girl's name)" and included an expletive and an anti-Semitic reference.

More here.

California PUC Adopts Measures to Protect Wireless Subscribers

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

A divided California Public Utilities Commission on Thursday adopted measures to protect wireless telephone customers from abuses by the phone industry.

The commission, which had been working for six years to come up with a set of rules for cell phone companies, voted 3-to-2 to adopt a proposal by CPUC President Michael Peevey.

It called for more consumer education, tougher enforcement of existing laws, creation of a telecommunications consumer fraud unit, and an expanded CPUC phone "hotline" for consumer complaints.

More here.

U.S. Justice Dept. Probes Online Music Pricing

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

The U.S. Department of Justice has opened an investigation into online music pricing at the world's major music labels, sources familiar with the matter said on Thursday.

The DOJ probe closely tracks a similar investigation by New York State Attorney General Eliot Spitzer into the pricing of digital music downloads, the sources said.

One music industry source said some subpoenas may have been issued already in connection with the probe, while other labels had been tipped off that subpoenas would likely be coming in the next few days.

It appeared that Sony BMG had already received a subpoena, the second industry source said.

More here.

More Arrests Connected To

Gary Libow writes in The Hartford (Connecticut) Courant:

Two out-of-state men have been arrested on federal charges that they had illegal sexual contact with two Connecticut minors they first met through the online social networking site

Stephen M. Letavec, 39, of Elrama, Penn., was arrested there Feb. 23 based on a criminal complaint issued in Connecticut charging him with using the Internet to persuade a minor to engage in sexual activity. He was also charged with engaging in interstate commerce for the purpose of attempting and having illicit sexual conduct with a minor.

More here.

Texas Man Charged for Storing Child Porn on iPod

Via News 8 Austin.

The Texas Attorney General's office has expanded its crusade against sexual predators to a new medium: iPods.

Ron James Guzman, 38, of San Marcos, was charged with storing sexually explicit videos of children on his portable media player.

It's the first case Greg Abbott's office has handled involving the use of iPods for child pornography.

A Hays County Grand Jury indicted Guzman on nine counts of possessing child pornography Wednesday.

Officials say the evidence against him includes several videos of children stored on his iPod.

More here.

Money Tech: New U.S. $10 Issued on March 2, 2006


On March 2, 2006, the Federal Reserve banks issued a redesigned Series 2004 $10 note to the public through commercial banks. The notes will begin circulating immediately in the United States, and will then be introduced in other countries in the days and weeks following, as international banks place orders for $10 notes from the Federal Reserve. Businesses that handle cash and use machines that receive or dispense cash are encouraged to continue updating their machines to accept the new notes.

New money designs are being issued as part of an ongoing effort to stay ahead of counterfeiting, and to protect the economy and the hard-earned money of U.S. currency users. The new series began with the introduction of the $20 note on October 9, 2003, and continued with the $50 note issued on September 28, 2004.

More here.

FCC Probes Caller-ID Fakers

Kevin Poulsen writes on Wired News:

If you've ever used one of the half-dozen websites that allow you to control the phone number that appears on someone's caller ID display when you phone them, the U.S. government would like to know who you are.

Last week the FCC opened an investigation into the caller-ID spoofing sites -- services that began popping up late 2004, and have since become a useful tool for private investigators, pranksters and more than a few fraud artists.

More here.

Identity Theft Victims to Sue NCsoft

Simon Burns writes on

Lawyers in South Korea have filed a class action lawsuit on behalf of more than 230,000 victims of identity theft in an online game.

The suit will claim damages of about $1,000 for each plaintiff whose identity was used to register new accounts in NCsoft's popular games, Lineage and Lineage 2, according to media reports.

Most of the identify thefts took place over the past six months as underground gaming syndicates stole victims' official Korean ID numbers in hacking attacks and used them to register hundreds of thousands of Lineage accounts.

More here.

Senate Bill to Address Fears of 'Tiered' Access to Net

Ken Belson writes in The New York Times:

Senator Ron Wyden, Democrat of Oregon, will introduce new legislation today that would prohibit Internet network operators from charging companies for faster delivery of their content to consumers or favoring some content providers over others.

The Wyden legislation, called the Internet Non-Discrimination Act of 2006, aims to prohibit network operators from assessing charges that give some content providers better access than others or blocking its subscribers from accessing content.

More here.

Yahoo! Says It Is Backing Away From TV-Style Web Shows

Saul Hansell writes in The New York Times:

After proclaiming grand plans to bring elaborately produced sitcoms, talk shows and other television-style programs to the Internet, the head of Yahoo's Media Group said yesterday that he was sharply scaling back those efforts.

He said the group would shift its focus to content acquired from other media companies or submitted by users.

More here.

User Friendly: Go Ahead And Hate Me


Click for larger image.

Teenager Claims to Find Code Flaw in Gmail

Jeremy Kirk writes on InfoWorld:

A teenage blogger claims to have discovered a flaw in Google's Gmail service that allows JavaScript to run, potentially allowing a malicious hacker to gather e-mail addresses or compromise an account. The supposed flaw may already have been fixed, however.

The teenager identifies himself in his blog as a 14-year-old named Anthony. His entry about Gmail is at:

He wrote that he was trying to e-mail JavaScript code from a Yahoo Inc. account to a G-mail account. The code will run in a preview pane, he wrote. But if the code is mailed from one Gmail account to another, it is filtered out, he said.

More here.

'Malware-Speak' Spooks Symantec

Brian Krebs writes on Security Fix:

Symantec said Wednesday it plans to tweak the behavior of its Norton Internet Security and Norton Personal Firewall products so that they are no longer vulnerable to an annoying but otherwise harmless prank that "script kiddie" hackers have been using for the past week or so to knock users off online chat channels.

Turns out that if someone types "startkeylogger" or "stopkeylogger" in an IRC channel, anyone on the channel using the affected Norton products will be immediately kicked off without warning. These are commands typically issued by the Spybot worm, which spreads over IRC and peer-to-peer file-swapping networks, installing a program that records and transmits everything the victim types (known as a keylogger).

More here.

USMC Censor-Filtering Web Sites?

Nick Farrell writes on The Inquirer:

US MARINES stationed in Iraq are complaining that the US government is restricting access their access to websites too much.

Along with porn sites, on the Army’s list of banned sites include mail sites such as Yahoo, AT&T, Hotmail. The censors are also blocking blogs and sites that do not agree with the current administration.

One marine wrote to a site called Wonkette to tell them that it was on the banned list. He said he didn’t mind The Army blocking access to porn sites, because it was a government network but he and the troops were getting miffed that access to email and possibly-not-toeing-the-government-line websites was a bit much.

Apparently the censorship is being done by the USMC Network Operations Center in Quantico, VA.

Microsoft Alleges EU Colluded With Rivals

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

Microsoft Corp. filed a formal complaint with EU antitrust regulators Thursday, alleging that the European Commission withheld documents and secretly colluded with rival companies shortly before the EU charged that Microsoft had not obeyed an earlier ruling.

The EU said it had no immediate comment on the content or admissibility of what it termed Microsoft's "supplementary response" to the charges against the company. It said it would decide after a March 30 or 31 hearing if it would levy euro 2 million ($2.4 million) in daily fines against the company for not doing enough to provide competitors with the information needed to make their software work with Microsoft servers.

U.S. Broadband Providers Looking to Implement Usage-Based Billing?

A Reuters newswire article, via CNN/Money, reports that:

New rates for high-speed Internet access may be in the works as phone companies and telecom equipment makers develop plans to charge customers rates based on how much bandwidth, or Internet capacity, they use, according to a report published Thursday.

Some phone companies, including BellSouth Corp., are mulling "pay-as-you-go broadband" plans that would charge customers more for bandwidth-guzzling activities like streaming video, than for Internet surfing, The Wall Street Journal said.

The move to charge different rates would mark a departure from the monthly flat fee that most plans currently charge their customers, the report said.

More here.

Total Solar Eclipse To Be Webcast Live

A Space Daily article, via, reports that:

The Exploratorium said Monday it will produce a live telecast March 29 of a solar eclipse from several locations along the path of totality.

The first darkening will occur on the western shore of Brazil, and then will move across the Atlantic Ocean to make landfall in Ghana. It will continue northeast through Togo, Benin, Nigeria, Niger, Chad, Libya, Egypt, across the Mediterranean and into Turkey.

More here.

Israeli Software Company Faces U.S. Probe

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

The same Bush administration review panel that approved a ports deal involving the United Arab Emirates has notified a leading Israeli software company that it faces a rare, full-blown investigation over its plans to buy a smaller rival.

The company was told U.S. officials feared the transaction could endanger some of government's most sensitive computer systems.

The objections by the FBI and Pentagon were partly over specialized intrusion detection software known as "Snort," which guards some classified U.S. military and intelligence computers.

More here. Fix

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Renowned Doctor Duped Out of $3M in Internet 419 Scam

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

A renowned psychiatrist lost up to $3 million over 10 years to a Nigerian Internet scam, his son alleges in a lawsuit.

Dr. Louis A. Gottschalk, an 89-year-old neuroscientist who works at the University of California, Irvine medical plaza that bears his name, acknowledged losing $900,000 to "some bad investments," according to court papers.

Guy Gottschalk filed a lawsuit last month asking a judge to remove his father as administrator of the family's $8 million partnership. He alleges his father destroyed bank records to cover up his losses.

The younger Gottschalk claims in court papers he filed the suit to prevent his father from being further victimized.

More here.

Microsoft's Origami Puzzle Begins to Unfold

Via Reuters.

The veil of mystery surrounding Microsoft's secretive Origami portable device lifted just a little on Thursday after the firm updated the project's cryptic Web site, hinting that all would be revealed on March 9.

It may be coincidence, but March 9 is also the launch in Hannover of CeBit, the world's largest annual trade show for the information and telecommunications technology industry.

More here.

U.S. Reviewing 2nd Dubai Firm

Jonathan Weisman and Susan Schmidt write in The Washington Post:

The Bush administration, stung by the public outcry over the Dubai port deal, has launched a national security investigation of another Dubai-owned company set to take over plants in Georgia and Connecticut that make precision components used in engines for military aircraft and tanks.

The administration notified congressional committees this week that its secretive Committee on Foreign Investment in the United States (CFIUS) is investigating the security implications of Dubai International Capital's $1.2 billion acquisition of London-based Doncasters Group Ltd., which has subsidiaries in the United States. It is also investigating an Israeli company's plans to buy the Maryland software security firm Sourcefire, which does business with Defense Department agencies.

More here.

Wednesday, March 01, 2006

2 March 1791: The Semaphore Machine Debuts in Paris

Optical semaphore telegraph near Saverne, France.
Image source: Wikipedia / Hans-Peter Scholz / Ulenspiegel

In my recurring "00:01" series -- a pursuit to provide a memory of important things we should not forget in technology -- I give you todays entry...

Via Wikipedia.

The semaphore line, or optical telegraph was a signalling system invented by the Chappe brothers in France. It is different from the naval semaphore system that uses hand-held flags, which was invented later.

The semaphore line preceded the electrical telegraph. It was faster than post-riders for bringing a message over long distances, but far more expensive and less private than the electrical telegraph, which replaced it.

France at the end of the 18th century had a complete system of semaphore lines. During the Revolutionary period, a French inventor, Claude Chappe (1763–1805), convinced the Deputies to set up a huge network between major cities. It was used for military and national communications until the 1850s.

Claude Chappe began development when he and his four brothers lost their livelihoods because of the French Revolution. A crucial innovation was the use of a group of trained, dedicated men to pass the signals.

More here.

Spy Time Tech: Camcorder Desk Clock

Image source: OhGizmo!

Bruce Eaton writes on OhGizmo!:

What we have here, Mr. Bond, is a device that not only tells time but will also keep a record of all those transient coworkers who are “not” stealing your candy and office supplies from your cubicle.

The motion-activated Camcorder Clock can record up to 12minutes on its built in memory or 3 hours with a 1 gig SD Card (not included) in 320×240 AVI video that can be viewed on your PC via USB.

Defunct U.S. Saudi Group Alleges NSA Eavesdropping

Carol D. Leonnig and Mary Beth Sheridan write in The Washington Post:

Documents cited in federal court by a defunct Islamic charity may provide the first detailed evidence of U.S. residents being spied upon by President Bush's secret eavesdropping program, according to the organization's lawsuit and a source familiar with the case.

The al Haramain Islamic Foundation, a Saudi organization that once operated in Portland, Ore., filed a description of classified government records in a lawsuit Tuesday and immediately asked a judge for a private review.

According to a source familiar with the case, the records indicate that the National Security Agency intercepted several conversations in March and April of 2004 between al Haramain's director, who was in Saudi Arabia, and two U.S. citizens in Washington who were working as lawyers for the organization.

Much more here.

FTC Intercedes in 'Wal-Mart Shopping Spree' Scam

Caroline Meyer writes on The Checkout Blog:

The Federal Trade Commission has obtained a temporary restraining order against a group of companies that have been running what's become infamously known as the "Wal-Mart Shopping Spree" scam.

Here's how the scam worked: Consumers got telephone sales pitches offering gift cards -- usually $200 to $500, mostly from Wal-Mart, but also from Kmart, JCPenney, Macy's and other retailers. To receive the cards, the consumers were asked to first pay a shipping and handling fee ranging from $3.49 to $4.95. The callers wanted payments made through consumers bank accounts and demanded the account information over the phone. If a consumer declined, they often were called repeatedly and sometimes threatened until they relented, the FTC said.

Of course, the gift cards never arrive. Even worse, once the callers had the bank account numbers, they kept drawing money from the accounts.

More here.

Wikipedia Hits 1,000,000 Articles

Via /.

"At 23:09 UTC, the one-millionth article was created in the English-language Wikipedia. The milestone was reached with the creation of an article about Jordanhill railway station in Scotland.

"Congratulations to all the Wikipedians, especially Nach0king who wrote the millionth article and Mészáros András who in November 2004 correctly predicted that it would be created today."

Rock On: Bell Canada Buying Online Music Store

Katherine McLean writes in The Globe and Mail:

Bell Canada is buying a majority stake in Canadian Internet music store Puretracks as the phone company pushes further into the on-line entertainment market.

Bell did not disclose the purchase price. Charlotte Burke, president of Bell's consumer Internet services, also declined to say how much of a stake Bell holds in Puretracks.

More here.

Mobile Carriers, Media Firms Soon to Have Their Feelings Hurt

Headline is mine -- I truly believe that the technology that mobile carriers are trying to hype, glorify, charge exhoribitant amounts of money for (out of sheer greed), and shove down the throats of their subscribers (read: customers) will backfire on them in a very entertaining fashion.

Just my opinion.

Sinead Carew writes for Reuters:

Cellphone and media companies expect to see a sizable market for advertising on cellphones in coming years, with options including advertising-subsidized video services, top executives said on Wednesday.

Viacom Inc., which runs MTV and Comedy Central, is working with major operators, and plans to play a major role in the first trials of mobile ads in the next year.

Sprint Nextel Corp., the No. 3 U.S. mobile provider, is keen to offer subsidized wireless videos and local ads to cellphones.

More wireless guru tech idiocy here.

Now I Know What I Want For X-Mas, My Next B-Day, Veterans Day....

Image source: Engadget

This is just about as bad-ass a toy tool as any red-blooded man anyone would ever want.

Evan Blass writes over on Engadget.

We've seen a number of autonomous helicopters in our day, but most of them just fly around showing off their avoidance and maneuvering skills and snapping the occasional photo or vid.

Well Neural Robotics Incorporated has just made their AutoCopter minicopter a lot more, um, interesting by adding an AA-12 12-gauge shotgun to the nose of their hovering sentry.

Previously the sub-$100,000 AutoCopter was restricted to such "mundane" tasks as surveillance, mine detection, and escort duty, but made a fun and easy target for enemies to pick off.

According to the rather loving write-up by Defense Review, with the addition of heavy firepower, this semi- or fully-autonomous, parachute-equipped copter is now able to "seek out, locate, identify, and destroy/terminate (i.e. kill) the enemy with extreme prejudice at 300 rounds-per-minute."

Isn't technology great! You can catch some footage of this little terror in action by...

...visiting Engadget, here.

University of Texas Ties Into New Nanotech Center

Via The Austin Business Journal.

The University of Texas is aligned with a nanotechnology center at Stanford University that will receive $20 million over five years from the National Cancer Institute.

Stanford, which is in Palo Alto, Calif., said Wednesday that the center will be led by professor of radiology and bioengineering Sanjiv Sam Gambhir, who directs the Molecular Imaging Program at Stanford.

WoW Hits the 6 Million Mark

Image source:

Brendan Sinclair writes on C|Net News:

The number of "World of Warcraft" customers worldwide has hit 6 million, Blizzard Entertainment announced on Wednesday, and a version of the popular game will soon be out in Spanish.

The VU Games-owned developer's European branch announced that the company is prepping a Spanish edition of its massively multiplayer online role-playing game for release in Europe, where English, French and German versions of the game are already available.

Yahoo! Granted Restraining Order in MForma Trade Secrets Case

John Borland writes on C|Net News:

A California state judge has given Yahoo its first legal win against a start-up that Yahoo sued for stealing trade secrets.

Yahoo sued San Francisco-based wireless content provider MForma earlier this week, contending that a group of former Yahoo employees left the company and took proprietary source-code and business information to their new jobs.

A judge on Wednesday granted Yahoo's request for a temporary restraining order, barring MForma employees from using or disclosing any proprietary Yahoo information in their work.

In a statement Wednesday, MForma Chief Executive Officer Jonathan Sacks said the seven former Yahoo employees would continue at their jobs as the lawsuit progressed.

More here.

Month 4: Craigslist Lockout of Hotmail and Yahoo! Continues

Via eMail Battles.

On the tenth day of November 2005, runaway classified advertising success CraigsList began blocking subscription mail to Hotmail, Yahoo and BT Yahoo Internet (formerly known as BTOpenworld).

CraigsList administrators complained that the yahooligans can't handle incoming mail traffic, deferring messages much of the day. This in turn was causing CraigsList mailservers to back up.

As if that wasn't bad enough, Hotmail was creating similar outcomes, though the causes were different.

More here.

GENI: A Sneak Peek at What's Next After the Internet?

Via NetworkWorld.

A new National Science Foundation (NSF) effort to foster next-generation network research will get a public hearing next week in Arlington, Va.

The "town hall meeting" on March 10 will focus on the "Global Environment for Networking Innovations" (GENI), which has been described by some as a sort of future Internet.

The NSF calls it "a shared, global facility designed to catalyze research on network architectures, services and applications" (see the NSF’s FAQ and a recently released, 125-page PDF "snapshot" of the envisioned facility).

More here.

BBQ Tech: Keg-a-Que

Image source: Gizmodo

Via Gizmodo.

The Keg-a-Que is a propane grill made from a beer keg. This $64.99 grill is completely portable and can hold up to 18 succulent hot dogs or up to 15 burgers.

Not sure if they have a charcoal version, but this is one keg you’ll want to tap again and again—for its meaty goodness.

Former U.S. Government IT Worker Pleads Guilty to Hacking

Grant Gross writes in InfoWorld:

A former IT system auditor for a U.S. government agency faces a five-year prison sentence on a computer hacking charge after secretly monitoring his supervisor's e-mail and computer use, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) said.

Kenneth Kwak, 34, of Chantilly, Virginia, pleaded guilty Wednesday in U.S. District Court for the District of Columbia to unauthorized access to a protected computer in furtherance of a criminal or tortious act, the DOJ said.

More here.

Toon: The Next Concession

Click for larger image.

Medical Tech: Ethicists Blast Fake Blood Study

An AP newswire article by Lindsey Tanner, via, reports that:

Imagine being in a car crash, lying unconscious and bleeding in an ambulance. With no blood on board, paramedics give you an experimental substitute, but even at the hospital, you get fake blood for several hours before doctors try the real thing.

Medical ethicists say a study that is doing just that on hundreds of trauma patients without their consent should be halted.

It's a renewed attack on research that began in 2004 after Northfield Laboratories got federal approval for its study of the blood substitute Polyheme.

Debate was reignited by a Wall Street Journal story last week that suggested the company tried to hide some crucial details about another blood substitute study back in 2000. The Journal reported that 10 heart surgery patients in that Polyheme experiment had heart attacks, while other patients given real blood did not.

More here.

Apple Security Patches Fix Mail, iChat, Safari Vulnerabilities

A MacCentral article by Peter Cohen, via Yahoo! News, reports that:

Apple on Wednesday released Security Update 2006-001, available for download through Software Update system preference pane and from Apple’s Downloads Web page.

The update addresses a recently reported exploit that left Safari users vulnerable to malicious shell scripts; corrects a vulnerability to Apple’s Mail software and also changes the way iChat handles file transfers to help prevent the “Leap-A” malware.

72% of U.S. Troops in Iraq Say 'End War in 2006'

Via Zogby International.

An overwhelming majority of 72% of American troops serving in Iraq think the U.S. should exit the country within the next year, and nearly one in four say the troops should leave immediately, a new Le Moyne College/Zogby International survey shows.

The poll, conducted in conjunction with Le Moyne College’s Center for Peace and Global Studies, showed that 29% of the respondents, serving in various branches of the armed forces, said the U.S. should leave Iraq “immediately,” while another 22% said they should leave in the next six months. Another 21% said troops should be out between six and 12 months, while 23% said they should stay “as long as they are needed.”

More here.

White House Spin Reaches Science Research

Peter N. Spotts writes n

Political interference with science is nothing new, of course. But the flash points have become more intense of late.

Some analysts say these cases fit a larger pattern under President Bush: The administration sets a policy direction, cherry-picks available results to fit that policy, and suppresses discussion of results that don't fit. While past administrations have done the same, critics say the Bush team has raised it to an art form.

More here.

Google Moving Search Records Out of China

Robert McMillan writes on InfoWorld:

In an effort to protect users of its Web site, Google is moving search records out of China and into the U.S., a company executive said this week. is a version of its search engine that is hosted in China and adheres to Chinese censorship laws. It was launched in January.

The company has decided to store search records from the site outside of the country in order to prevent China's government from being able to access the data without Google's consent, said Peter Norvig, Google's director of research, speaking Monday at a panel discussion at Santa Clara University. "We didn't want to be in the position of having to hand over these kinds of records to the government," he said.

More here.

Italian ISPs to Block 'Unlicensed' Online Gaming Websites

Via Zone-H.

A few hours ago the recently approved measure forcing Italian internet service providers to block unlicensed online gaming websites entered into force. The censoring method recommended by the [Italian] Amministrazione Autonoma Monopoli di Stato – the State Monopoly Agency - is based upon the redirection of queries to unauthorized websites to a dedicated website by using the ISP DNS systems.

In addition to censorship, we could potentially be facing massive log-based user listing. As a matter of fact, the February 7th 2006 much debated measure does not clarify how to technically ban Web sites, while it is extremely explicit on how transforming Italian internet service providers into unwilling co-operators of an act of Internet censorship and user listing.

More here.

User Friendly: Blogger Love


Click for larger image.

Virginia Nears Passage of Flat Tax on Wireless Service

Jeffrey Silva writes on RCR Wireless News:

Virginia’s Senate Finance Committee approved legislation creating a flat tax for mobile phone service and other communications offerings, moving closer to possible passage of a bill with national implications.

The Senate panel agreed to the bill Tuesday by a 12 to 2 vote, with one abstention. The full Senate is set to vote tomorrow on the communications tax measure, sponsored by Delegate Samuel Nixon Jr. (R). Last year, a similar bill backed by Nixon and Sen. Jay O’Brien (R) was thwarted in the Senate.

Raytheon to Provide U.S. Navy's Submarine Satellite Communications

Doug Beizer writes on

Submarines cruising at periscope depth will be able to connect to military satellites using a communications system developed by Raytheon Co.

Under a $35.9 million contract with the Navy, Raytheon will deliver 15 Submarine High Data Rate multiband satellite communications systems, said officials from the Waltham, Mass., company.

Bill Adds New Curbs to Patriot Act Powers

An AP newswire article, via MSNBC, reports that:

The Senate on Wednesday agreed to add to the Patriot Act new curbs on the government’s power to pry into private records, moving President Bush’s antiterror law a step closer to renewal before key provisions expire next week.

But even as it progressed on a 95-4 vote, some Democrats complained that the limits would be virtually meaningless in practice and sought to add even stronger privacy protections.

More here.

Seattle Man Accused of Transmitting Internet Virus

An AP newswire article, via, reports that:

A Washington state man has been indicted and arrested on a charge of releasing computer viruses that harmed a computer system in Missouri.

Richard Honour, 30, was arrested Tuesday in Seattle after being indicted Feb. 23 by a federal grand jury in St. Louis on a felony count of transmitting Internet viruses, U.S. Attorney Catherine Hanaway said.

The indictment said Honour developed and caused the release of computer programs that infected systems associated with an Internet chat room, called DarkMyst, that was developed in Missouri in 1998.

More here.

Burns Asks FCC to Auction Smaller 700 MHz 'Chunks'

Heather Forsgren Weaver writes on RCR Wireless News:

Spectrum being reclaimed from broadcasters as part of the digital TV transition should be auctioned in smaller chunks than is currently contemplated, Sen. Conrad Burns told Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin in a letter.

More here.

Technology Facilitates Caller ID Spoofing

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

Last fall, U.S. Rep. Tim Murphy's office started getting phone calls from constituents who complained about receiving recorded phone messages that bad-mouthed Murphy.

The constituents were especially upset that the messages appeared to come from the congressman's own office. At least, that's what Caller ID said.

More here. Fix

Via Enjoy!

IXI Mobile Merges With Israel Technology Acquisition Corp. (ITAC)

Via RCR Wireless News.

Ogo device vendor IXI Mobile Inc. said it is merging with Israel Technology Acquisition Corporation, the firms announced. IXI Mobile is expected to become a wholly owned subsidiary of ITAC when the deal closes, which is expected in the third quarter of this year.

IXI Mobile, headquartered in Redwood City, Calif., is privately held and has research and development facilities in Israel and Romania. The company sells the Ogo family of wireless devices that support instant messaging, e-mail and text messaging features, but no voice capabilities. Publicly traded ITAC, which is focused on acquisitions of Israel-based research and development firms, plans to change its name to IXI Mobile when the merger is consummated.

More here.

U.S. Government to Mediate AOL e-Mail 'Tax' Uproar?

Via Red Herring.

The showdown between America Online and a surprisingly disparate partnership of consumer and political rights groups over proposed pay-to-send email services will be arbitrated eventually by the U.S. government, along with another pending Net neutrality battle.

A coalition of 50 groups that run the gamut from the Electronic Frontier Foundation and Gun Owners of America to the Association of Cancer Online Resources and the Humane Society failed in its first public attempt to shake AOL’s resolve to charge extra for a premium email service.

An AOL spokesperson called the group a coalition of “organizations that exist to protest and perform political fundraising online,” and suggested that they had picked the wrong target in AOL.

At a press conference on Monday, coalition leaders said they did not include Yahoo in their protest because Yahoo, which has also announced plans to offer fee-based email, is not as determined to push ahead with its plans.

More here.

eBay Deadbeats:

A UPI newswire article, via, reports that:

Imagine buying vintage Spiderman comics for $16,000 and receiving instead, a box of printer paper or losing a whopping $27,000 in purchasing a big rig that didn't exist in the first place. These are just many of the online auction fraud horror stories that brothers Edward and Steve Klink compiled from their eBay watchdog Web site

In their book "Dawn of the eBay Deadbeats," some 70 strange-but-true stories were collected and retold with the help of illustrator Clay Butler.

More here.

Survey Says: Internet Gambling Revenues Top $10B

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

Online gambling revenues reached 10.9 billion dollars worldwide last year even though betting is illegal in many countries including the United States, a survey showed.

The research firm eMarketer said global Internet gambling revenues -- minus the amounts paid to winners -- grew 28 percent last year.

More here.

IT Departments Taking Over Physical Security

Image source:

William Eazel writes on SC Magazine Online:

As firms move towards converged voice-data IP networks, IT departments will increasingly become responsible for the physical security of buildings via deployment of systems such as biometric access controls, IP-CCTV and card readers, new research has predicted.

A third of the IT directors surveyed in a new study by research firm Vanson Bourne Limited said that, as a result of being able to control physical security systems over IP, the area of "security over IP" will become their responsibility. In the manufacturing sector, 57 percent expected their departments to become responsible for physical security, and in the retail, distribution and transport sector it was 32 percent. In other commercial sectors, it rose to 36 percent, while it fell to only 6 percent in the financial services sector.

More here.

TelTel: Promising Better VoIP Service

Matt Marshall writes over on SiliconBeat:

Laboring in obscurity for the past two years, TelTel is an Internet telephone company you've never heard of.

The Santa Clara company has raised $8M from venture backers, is finally blowing the covers off its plans, and thinks it can take on Skype and others by partnering with other telephone companies.

This VoIP space is now officially crowded, and there's going to be a lot of pain for some people. Vonage, which is trying to go public at a time when it is losing lots of money on ever customer acquisition, is one example of an IPO with huge risk.

Much more here.