Saturday, March 18, 2006

19 March 1985: Happy Death Day, IBM PC Jr.


The PCjr computer with its original "chiclet" keyboard.
Image source: / Oldskool PC

Via The History Channel Online and Wikipedia.

On this day in 1985, IBM pulled the plug on its floundering home computer, the PCjr. First introduced in November of 1983, the PCjr had been created to fuel IBM's efforts to rule the consumer computer market. In its initial press packet for the PCjr, IBM touted the computer as a "compact, low-cost" machine for "personal productivity applications, learning and entertainment."

However, the hype and putatively puny price couldn't induce people to buy the machine: after sixteen months on the market, consumers had snapped up but 240,000 units. The failure of the PCjr did not bode well for IBM: during the ensuing years, the company struggled to make the transition from its traditional realm of business computing to the burgeoning home user market.

More here and here.

Austin Chic: South by Southwest -- Austin-Powered

As a naturalized Texan and an Austin resident, I already know Austin is ultra-cool, but ya gotta be extra proud when it gets the attention of the rest of the world.

Ann Hornaday writes in The Washington Post:

Austin badges? You bet we need those stinking badges.

Such is the mantra of South by Southwest, this city's 20-year-old music festival and its more recent offshoots, the South by Southwest film and interactive conferences, which have gained international renown as ultra-happening confabs of artists, audiences, journalists and hipster apparatchiks.

Like black-clad swallows returning to a Tex-Mex version of Capistrano, veterans of South by Southwest -- or SXSW, or just "South by," as it's called by the true cognoscenti -- flock every spring to this oasis of pop culture, liberal politics and Shiner Bock beer, soaking up just enough to hold them for another year. But they're not going anywhere without those all-important laminates hanging awkwardly around their necks from bright blue ribbons festooned with the BMI logo.

More here.

California Town Auctioned on eBay Up for Sale Again

An AP newswire article, via ABC News, reports that:

The first town ever auctioned on eBay soon will be back up for sale on the online auction site.

Nearly two years after he bought the tiny town of Bridgeville, Orange County financial adviser Bruce Krall said Friday he plans to re-auction the Humboldt County hamlet on eBay next month.

"Due to family reasons, I'm pretty much tied to Southern California for the foreseeable future," Krall said. "We can't move up there. It only makes sense to pass it on to somebody else."

Krall said the auction will open April 4 with a minimum bid of $1.75 million more than twice what he paid for the 83-acre property about 40 miles southwest of Eureka.

More here.

User Friendly: Waiting For Web 2.1


Click for larger image.

Belarus Gets the Message: Fear Rules

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

When his mobile phone beeped to signal a new text message, Anatoly Korshunov thought a friend was calling. Instead it was a lesson in politics -- Belarus style.

"Provocateurs are preparing bloodshed," the anonymous message warned. "Look after your life and health."

The mobile phone text message predicted "bloodshed" would take place on Minsk's Oktyabrskaya Square after Sunday's presidential election -- exactly where opposition leaders wanted to protest what they said would be mass vote-rigging in favour of President Alexander Lukashenko.

More here.

U.S. Spam King Confirms Move to New Zealand

Brian McWilliams writes on the Spam Kings blog:

Television New Zealand's "One News" program has obtained an on-camera interview with Brendan Battles, in which he admitted to being the American spam king who had apparently retired last year.

Rumors of the Florida spammer's relocation started last October, when someone anonymously posted a report of Battles' move to Kiwiland to the Nanae newsgroup.

If Battles had planned to turn over a new leaf in New Zealand, those hopes began to unravel when he made the mistake of spamming a New Zealand-based anti-spammer (sample here) earlier this month. The message was part of a small spam run advertising broadband wireless from Wired Country Direct, a unit of Compass Communications.

More here.

Alaska Volcano Web Site Becomes Internet 'Hot Spot'

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

Want to peer into the steaming summit of an erupting volcano without risking death?

Anyone with an Internet connection and a computer can do just that, thanks to about 30 cameras and other recording devices set up on Alaska's Augustine Volcano that are streaming information to a Web site hosted by the Alaska Volcano Observatory, a joint federal-state office.

More here.

Disney Looks Long, Hard at Telecom

Arshad Mohammed writes in The Washington Post:

When the country's top telecom executives gather for a trade show in Las Vegas next week, they will have an unusual guest: Walt Disney Co. chief executive Robert A. Iger.

That the entertainment mogul was invited, and agreed to come, speaks volumes about the transformation of an industry that once carried only phone calls over humble copper wires but now aspires to transmit everything from television and movies to video conferences and medical monitoring over new, high-speed fiber-optic networks.

More here.

Chinese Blogger Declines Comment on Reported Hoax

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

A Chinese journalist whose Web log temporarily closed down in an incident that sparked criticism of how Western media cover China declined on Saturday to confirm or deny he had played a hoax.

Wang Xiaofeng, whose blog is known as "Massage Cream," said repeatedly he did not want to talk about the incident after Reuters and other foreign news media reported on March 8 that his and another blogger's sites had been shut down by the government.

Reuters reported the blogs reopened the next day in a story that said the incident might have been a prank.

More here.

Dilbert: The Coffee Transporter

Click for larger image.

Friday, March 17, 2006

18 March 1877: Happy Birhday, Edgar Cayce, Whacked-Out Psychic


In October 1910, this photograph appeared on the front page of
The New York Times after a reporter stole it from the home of Cayce’s parents,
to use for a story.

Image source: Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia.

Edgar Cayce (March 18, 1877 – January 3, 1945) (pronounced /'keɪsiː/) was an American psychic who channeled answers to questions on subjects such as astrology, reincarnation, and Atlantis while in trance. He may have been the source for the idea that California would fall into the ocean (though he never said exactly this). Although Cayce lived before the emergence of the New Age movement, he remains a major influence on its teachings.

Cayce became an American celebrity towards the end of his life and the publicity given to his prophecy has overshadowed what to him were the more important parts of his work such as healing (the vast majority of his "readings" were given for people who were sick) or Christian theology (Cayce being a lifelong, devout member of the Disciples of Christ). Skeptics challenge Cayce's claim to psychic prowess, while conservative Christians also question his unorthodox answers on religious matters (such as reincarnation and akashic records).

Today there are several tens of thousands of Cayce students. Most are located in the United States and Canada, but Edgar Cayce Centers are now found in 25 other countries. The Association for Research and Enlightenment (ARE), headquartered in Virginia Beach, is the major organization promoting interest in Cayce.

More here.

Google Ordered to Give Up Web Sites, Not Search Terms

This seems somewhat contrary to me on its face. Wasn't the whole point to compile statistics on searches and search criteria in an effort to provide data on the U.S. Government's case to plead in favor of a more expansive COPA?

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

A federal judge on Friday denied a request by the U.S. Justice Department for specific terms customers used to search Google Inc.'s Web database but will require Google to turn over 50,000 Web addresses.

In a widely anticipated, 21-page ruling that has implications for the privacy of Internet users, Judge James Ware of the U.S. District for the Northern District of California said privacy considerations led him to deny the government demand in part.
More here.

Australia: Adultshop Heads for Mobile$

Kevin Andrusiak writes on Australian IT:

In the great tradition of build it and they will come, porn purveyors are moving to cash in on the growth of mobile data services, with Perth-based Adultshop buying Loop Wireless in a scrip and cash deal worth about $6.5 million.

Loop Wireless - owner of interactive website Kink Kommunity, which sells content such as videos, games and music - will become a subsidiary of Adultshop, which is one of the few listed adult entertainment companies to survive the dotcom crash.

Adultshop will use the Kink Kommunity website to serve up a mix of adult-oriented content and to introduce what it calls new "social networking content" such as soft porn pictures and videos and material regularly featured in so-called lads' magazines.

More here.

User Friendly: Robots.txt Says...


Click for larger image.

World's Fastest Electric Car: The Tzero

Image source: TechEBlog

Via TechEBlog.

Stylish, powerful, and eco-friendly, the sleek electric-powered Tzero roadster does 0-60 in just 4.1 seconds. The lightweight chassis combined with a 200bhp engine makes Tzero the world’s fastest electric vehicle.

Two potential negatives, it costs $219,525 and won’t come stateside anytime soon.

Rush to Convergence: Don't Screw Yourself

Divergence is very important to keeping daily operations up and running.
Image source: eMail Battles

Via eMail Battles.

A friend with an accounting firm called in a panic. His web connection was dead, along with his phone system.

Clients couldn't call in. Their email was bouncing. They couldn't reach his website. And his overpaid partners couldn't reach clients via email or phone either. The whole firm had screeched to a halt, with folks using their personal cell phones for only the most pressing business. Total disaster.

First time he'd ever seen or heard of such a disaster in his twenty-four years in business.

How could such a perfect storm happen?

More good advice here.

Fossett Claims Another Aviation Record

Steve Fossett at the Salina Municipal Airport after landing his GlobalFlyer on Friday.
Image source: CNN / AP

An AP newswire article, via CNN, reports that:

Adventurer Steve Fossett said Friday that he had broken the record for flying farther than anyone departing and landing at the same spot, traveling more than 25,000 miles (40,225 kilometers) in three days.

Fossett landed his lightweight experimental aircraft at Salina Municipal Airport a few hours ahead of schedule, at 9:06 a.m. CST (1706 GMT), more than 74 hours after he took off from the same place.

More here.

New Spycar Software Will Test Antispyware

Robert McMillan writes on InfoWorld:

Does your antispyware software really work? With security experts warning of "rogue" antispyware products that sometimes do more harm than good, two security researchers have decided to take matters into their own hands.

They're working on a new software product, called Spycar, that will test the effectiveness of antispyware products. "We decided the best way to do that would be to write a suite of tiny custom programs that each do a tiny spyware-like thing," said Tom Liston, a senior security consultant with Intelguardians LLC, based in Washington, DC.

The software is being developed by Liston and Ed Skoudis, also an Intelguardians security consultant.

More here.

Microsoft to Buy Remote-Sensing Company

Mary Jo Foley writes on Microsoft Watch:

No press release (yet) from Microsoft on this one. But it looks like the Redmond software maker is about to acquire remote-sensing vendor Vexcel Corp. for an undisclosed sum. The Vexcel purchase is expected to tie in with Microsoft's Live search and mapping technologies in some way.

Vexcel, based in Boulder, Colo., offers mapping, satellite ground systems and advanced radar technologies.

Web Site Files Complaint Against Google

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

Google Inc.'s mysterious methods for ranking Web sites came under attack Friday in a lawsuit accusing the online search engine leader of ruining scores of Internet businesses that have been wrongfully banished from its index.

The civil complaint, filed in U.S. District Court in San Jose by, seeks to be certified as a class action representing the owners of all Web sites blacklisted by Google's Internet-leading search engine since January 2001.

More here.

FCC Chief Supports Time Limit on Video License Action

Jeremy Pelofsky writes for Reuters:

U.S. Federal Communications Commission Chairman Kevin Martin on Friday endorsed limiting the time authorities have to consider requests by new companies to offer subscription television service.

The top two telephone companies, AT&T Inc. and Verizon Communications, are deploying new video services but have complained that getting the necessary approvals from local authorities takes too long.

"I think that's one area where the commission could do something," Martin told reporters during a press conference. "I do think there are some reasonable time limits."

He did not elaborate.

More here.

THQ buys Austin's Vigil Games

Via The Austin Business Journal.

Austin's Vigil Games was acquired by THQ Inc., a developer and publisher of interactive entertainment software. Financial terms were not disclosed.

Vigil Games in Austin will be led by David Adans, previous creator and director of several projects for NCSoft, and comic artist Joe Madureira, best known for his work on Marvel Comic's UnCanny X-Men.

Vigil is working on new content for a 2008 release. Its first project, an original property for next generation systems, is expected to be announced later this year.

More here.

Push for Network Neutrality Mandate Grows

Anne Broache writes on C|Net News:

The American Association of Retired Persons, better known as the AARP, may be more famous for its lobbying muscle on pension plans and Medicare, but now it's taking up a new platform: keeping the Internet free and open for the age 50-plus set.

The 35 million member group is among a growing list of companies and organizations that signed a new letter Thursday urging senators to require Net neutrality principles by law. Also called network neutrality, it's the idea that the companies that own the broadband pipes should not be able to configure their networks in a way that plays favorites--allowing them, for example, to transmit their own services at faster speeds, or to charge Net content and application companies a fee for similar fast delivery.

More here.

Pair Accused of Bilking Cisco Systems of $1.4M

An AP newswire article, via, reports that:

Two people were arrested on suspicion that they bilked $1.4 million from Cisco Systems Inc. by billing for executive headhunting services that were never performed, authorities said.

Gail Lavonne Morales, 49, of San Jose, pleaded not guilty to a felony grand theft charge Thursday in Santa Clara County Superior Court, said prosecutor Joseph Reader. The Cisco human resources administrator is accused of being an inside accomplice in the scheme.

Morales' alleged partner in the plot, Martin Duane Smith, 36, of Dublin, was taken into custody on a $1 million arrest warrant Wednesday at the Walnut Creek telemarketing firm where he worked, prosecutors said.

Smith faces more than 22 years in prison on 20 counts of money laundering including grand theft enhancements, Reader said.

More here.

Austin's Forget Networks Uses 'Patent Trolling' as Business Model

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

While most technology companies make money by developing software, building hardware or providing services, Forgent Networks Inc. has taken a different route: It produces threats and lawsuits that try to cash in on ideas.

Forgent and other companies with similar strategies — often called "patent trolling" by critics — amass intellectual property portfolios and file suits against other businesses, accusing them of infringement.

More here.

Groups Slam Data Breach Notification Bill

Roy Mark writes on

A U.S. House panel effort to write a national data breach disclosure law is running into fierce opposition by consumer groups calling the legislation the "worst data security bill ever."

Passed out of the House Financial Services Committee on a 48-17 vote late Thursday afternoon, the Financial Data Protection Act of 2005 (H.R. 3997) allows data brokers and other companies to conduct an investigation of a breach and determine if notification to consumers is necessary.

The bill also allows companies that choose to protect their data with encryption to take that into consideration when determining if consumer notification is necessary in the aftermath of a breach.

More here.

U.S. Bill Would Allow Warrantless Spying

Charles Babington writes in The Washington Post:

The Bush administration could continue its policy of spying on targeted Americans without obtaining warrants, but only if it justifies the action to a small group of lawmakers, under legislation introduced yesterday by key Republican senators.

The four senators hope to settle the debate over National Security Agency eavesdropping on international communications involving Americans when one of the parties is suspected of terrorist ties. President Bush prompted a months-long uproar when he said that constitutional powers absolve him of the need to seek warrants in such cases, even though the 1978 Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act requires warrants for domestic wiretaps.

More here.

Austin Announces Outdoor Wireless Mesh Project

Chip writes over on Save Muni Wireless:

Austin is currently one of the most unwired cities in the nation, achieved through a tapestry of hotspots. These numerous small zones, from city parks to cafes, make Wi-Fi access nearly ubiquitous.

This week, the City announce a plan to deploy large, wireless meshes to blanket parts of the city. The "Outdoor Wireless Mesh Project" would offer free access to the public.

Cisco Systems is donating the equipment. The network will be built in time for the upcoming World Congress on Information Technology. Afterwards, the City will manage the network.

For more information, see the press release and article in the Austin American-Statesman.

Skype CEO: Europe Start-Ups Suffer From 'Risk Fear'

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

Skype survived its early tests as a European start-up to become a world leader in Internet telephony but the region's aversion to risk means many other fledging companies are doomed, Skype's founder said.

Ahead of meeting next week of European Union leaders to discuss long-delayed reforms to make Europe more competitive, Niklas Zennstroem told business and EU officials that Europe still has the wrong culture when it comes to entrepreneurship.

More here.

Ringside Seat to the Universe's First Split Second

Time Line of the Universe -- The expansion of the universe over most
of it's history has been relatively gradual. The notion that a rapid
period "inflation" preceded the Big Bang expansion was first
put forth 25 years ago. The new WMAP observations favor specific
inflation scenarios over other long held ideas.

Image source: NASA


You don't get much closer to the big bang than this.

Scientists peering back to the oldest light in the universe have evidence to support the concept of inflation, which poses that the universe expanded many trillion times its size faster than a snap of the fingers at the outset of the big bang.

We're talking about when the universe was less than a trillionth of a trillionth of a second old. In that crucial split second, changes occurred that allowed for the creation of stars and galaxies hundreds of millions of years later.

More here.

Canada to Urge Looser Telecom Rules

A UPI newsbrief, via, reports that:

A Canadian government panel is expected to recommend easing regulations in the telecom market when it releases a major report next week.

The Toronto Globe and Mail said Friday that the Telecom Policy Review Panel has concluded that telecom companies face too much red tape whenever they want to introduce a new product or change their prices.

More here.

Visa Issues Cash-Register Flaw Warning

Ryan Naraine write on eWeek:

The U.S. arm of credit and debit card giant Visa International has issued an alert for flaws in cash-register software made by Fujitsu Transaction Solutions that could put sensitive cardholder information at risk.

According to a report in The Wall Street Journal, the bug can cause the inadvertent storage of customer data—including secret PINs—within the point-of-sale software installed in retail locations.

The report said Visa USA sent the warning to "merchant acquirers" that process card transactions for some of the biggest names in retail and urged users to apply a software upgrade from Fujitsu to fix the flaw.

Officials from Visa USA and Fujitsu could not be reached for comment at press time but, according to the newspaper, the confidential alert was sent several days ago to raise awareness about the bug.

More here.

DRM: The Day the Music Player Died

Margaret Kane writes on the C|Net Blogma Blog:

Digital rights management technology is widely disparaged by techies. Now they may have a new reason to dis the software--apparently, it can significantly decrease the battery life of MP3 players.

A study by sister-site found that "heavy DRM not only slows down an MP3 player but also sucks the very life out of them." The time spent looking up licenses and comparing them to the music on the player can reduce battery life by up to 25 percent in some cases.

More here.

Confessions of a Virtual Intelligence Analyst

Via Terra Nova.

We live in a world where the technology exists that the government or other technically sophisticated group is able to monitor and analyze a substantial fraction of the communications of the world's population, or can track their movements throughout the day, or keep tabs on their financial transactions.

And that world is called World of Warcraft.

While the NSA has been capturing and analyzing international phone calls and electronic communications, with far less press coverage I’ve spent much of the last year collecting and helping to analyze data scraped from World of Warcraft as part of the largest quantitative study of virtual worlds to date.

More here.

29 Arrests in UK Piracy Crackdown


The police arrested 29 suspects yesterday in a series of dawn raids targeting UK counterfeiters and benefit fraudsters. Seventeen addresses in the Liverpool, Sefton and Skelmersdale areas were searched.

The British Phonographic Industry (BPI), the Federation Against Copyright Theft (FACT) and computer software body ELSPA (Entertainment and Leisure Software Publishers Association) assisted in the six-month investigation, which was conducted by the Department for Work and Pensions.

The operation uncovered five major duplicating factories; from which counterfeit CDs, DVDs and computer games were distributed and sold.

More here.

Judge Orders Gmail Disclosure

Declan McCullagh writes on C|Net News:

In November 2003, the Federal Trade Commission sued AmeriDebt and founder Andris Pukke on charges that the company deceived customers about credit counseling and failed to use customers' money to actually pay their creditors.

AmeriDebt settled, but the courts are still trying to uncover the location of Pukke's apparently sizeable assets.

Pukke's missing money has been linked to a Belize developer called Dolphin Development, which counts a fellow named Peter Baker as a shareholder. The court-appointed receiver in the FTC case, Robb Evans & Associates, sent a subpoena to Google on Nov. 1 asking for the complete contents of Baker's Gmail account.

More here.

Next Generation Satellites Will See More, Faster

A 2-foot, high-resolution image from DigitalGlobe's QuickBird
satellite shows the nuclear facility in Yongbyon, North Korea.

Image source: Wired News / DigitalGlobe

Joanna Glasner writes on Wired News:

Critics of overhead imagery services like Google Earth and Microsoft Virtual Earth generally fall into two categories: government agencies who say the services show too much, and users who lament they can't see more.

As the next generation of commercial imaging satellites moves closer to launch, the first camp may be out of luck.

Forthcoming features such as enhanced zoom capabilities, higher-resolution views and faster updates of stock imagery will reveal far more detail of Earth's surface than anything visible on a computer screen today. While satellite imagery won't be real-time, or capable of distinguishing individuals, it will be good enough to pinpoint ground-level details too blurry to identify using today's technology.

More here.

Philips to Fix 12,000 Plasma TVs in U.S.

Via Reuters.

Dutch company Philips Electronics will make house calls to repair almost 12,000 flat panel plasma TV sets in the United States because they are liable to overheating, it said on Friday.

Several incidents of overheating have been reported in the United States but Philips said materials used in the television sets were all flame retardant and there was no risk that they would catch fire.

More here.

Vodafone Sells Japanese Unit to Softbank for $12B

A Reuters newswire article, via CNN, reports that:

Vodafone Group has agreed to sell its stake in its struggling Japanese unit to Softbank Corp. for £6.8 billion ($11.87 billion) in cash.

Softbank, Japan's largest broadband Internet provider, has been setting its sights on Japan's $78 billion mobile market for years as it aims to become a pre-eminent communications company, providing broadband, mobile and Internet services and content.

More here.

China Sentences Teacher for Publishing Anti-Government Views on the Internet

A Reuters newswire article, via CNN, reports that:

A Chinese court jailed a teacher for 10 years on Friday for publishing anti-government views on the Internet, continuing an official crackdown on Web-based dissidents.

Ren Ziyuan, 27, had been found guilty of "subversion of state power" after posting a tract entitled "The Road to Democracy" and other essays, his father, Ren Rusheng, told Reuters.

New York-based watchdog Human Rights in China said the tract asserted citizens had the right to violently overthrow tyranny.

More here.

Thursday, March 16, 2006

17 March 1845: The Ruber Band is Patented


Rubber Bands
Image source: Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia.

The rubber band was patented in England on March 17, 1845 by Stephen Perry, who was a 19th century British inventor and businessman. His corporation was the Messers Perry and Co, Rubber Co Manuf London, which made early products from vulcanized rubber.

And, oh yeah -- Happy St. Patrick's Day.

California Gang Members to be Tracked by GPS

Via Reuters.

California prison officials have begun using Global Positioning System anklets to track known gang members.

The gritty suburb of San Bernardino, about 60 miles east of Los Angeles, this week became the first California city to use the GPS satellite navigation system to track gang members when the devices were strapped onto three parolees, state Department of Corrections spokeswoman Jeanne Woodford said.

Six California counties began using GPS to monitor sex offenders in 2005 and some have already been arrested for violating parole after they were tracked to off-limits areas.

More here.

Music Web Site: Breach Exposed Accounts

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

A musical instrument and sound gear Web site that advertises its relationship with artists such as Dave Matthews, Carlos Santana and Mary J. Blige notified some customers that their credit card information may have been stolen.

The warning, which came more than a month after someone broke into, was delivered Wednesday after The Associated Press inquired about the breach. The San Rafael-based company said none of its celebrity clients was among the 274 people notified.

Web site operators still are trying to determine how the intruder gained access. Following the discovery, administrators changed passwords and added other safeguards to restrict unauthorized access to the system, owner J.D. Sharp said.

More here.

Ferrai Enzo Drivers May Have Been Filming Their Crash?

Image source: Jalopnick

Amazing theory....

Richard Winton and David Pierson write in The LA Times:

A Los Angeles County Sheriff's Department's investigation into a mysterious crash that destroyed a rare $1-million Ferrari in Malibu last month is now focusing on a videotape that was purportedly shot from inside the vehicle at the time of the accident, according to sources close to the case.

The sources said that Ferrari owner Stefan Eriksson and the other man in the car, identified by authorities as Trevor Karney, had a video camera rolling as they raced on Pacific Coast Highway on the morning of Feb. 21 at speeds in excess of 162 mph.

More here.

Security Flaws Could Cripple U.S. Missile Defense Network

Image source:

Bob Brewin writes on

The network that stitches together radars, missile launch sites and command control centers for the Missile Defense Agency (MDA) ground-based defense system has such serious security flaws that the agency and its contractor, Boeing, may not be able to prevent misuse of the system, according to a Defense Department Inspector General’s report.

The report, released late last month, said MDA and Boeing allowed the use of group passwords on the unencrypted portion of MDA’s Ground-based Midcourse Defense (GMD) communications network.

The report said that neither MDA nor Boeing officials saw the need to install a system to conduct automated log audits on unencrypted communications and monitoring systems. Even though current DOD policies require such automated network monitoring, such a requirement “was not in the contract."

More here.

Airline Screeners Fail Government Bomb Tests

An NBC News investigative article by Lisa Myers, Rich Gardella & the NBC Investigative Unit, reports that:

Imagine an explosion strong enough to blow a car's trunk apart, caused by a bomb inside a passenger plane. Government sources tell NBC News that federal investigators recently were able to carry materials needed to make a similar homemade bomb through security screening at 21 airports.

In all 21 airports tested, no machine, no swab, no screener anywhere stopped the bomb materials from getting through. Even when investigators deliberately triggered extra screening of bags, no one discovered the materials.

More here.

FBI Awards Lockheed $305M Sentinel Contract

Jason Miller writes on

The FBI today awarded Lockheed Martin Corp. a $305 million contract for a do-over case management system.

As industry sources had predicted last week, the Bethesda, Md., corporation won the six-year contract for the program known as Sentinel, which supersedes the bureau's failed Virtual Case File system. VCF turned into a $100 million debacle that the FBI had to abandon last March.

More here.

French MPs Vote to Penalize Illegal Internet Downloads

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

Internet copyright pirates will face prison and large fines after French MPs defied left-wing opposition in pushing through a bill to prevent illegal downloading of music and films.

The controversial bill to stamp out illegal downloads in line with a 2001 European Union directive has highlighted deep divisions in the country over how to balance consumer rights and copyright in the Internet age.

More here.

techdirt: Security Through Begging

Mike Masnick writes over on

Last summer, the surprising news came out that Japanese nuclear secrets leaked out, after a contractor was allowed to connect his personal virus-infested computer to the network at a nuclear power plant. The contractor had a file sharing app on his laptop as well, and suddenly nuclear secrets were available to plenty of kids just trying to download the latest hit single.

It's only taken about nine months for the government to come up with its suggestion on how to prevent future leaks of this nature: begging all Japanese citizens not to use file sharing systems -- so that the next time this happens, there won't be anyone on the network to download such documents. Beyond the fact that this is unlikely to have any effect (at all) on file sharing in Japan, it has nothing to do with the actual security breach.

More here.

Vodafone Japanese Unit Target of $15B Bid

An AP newswire article by Aleksandrs Rozens, via, reports that:

Investment firms Providence Equity Partners Inc. and Cerberus Partners LP are readying a roughly $15 billion bid for a Japanese unit of British mobile-phone operator Vodafone Group PLC, according to a person familiar with the discussions.

Banks that may help finance the purchase, which could be in the form of a leveraged buyout, include ABN Amro Holding NV, JPMorgan Chase & Co. and Morgan Stanley, according to the person, who declined to be identified because the negotiations were still under way.

More here.

Alltel Announces $455M Buyout of Wireless Partnerships in Carolinas

Via RCR Wireless News.

Alltel Corp. announced it purchased the remaining 50 percent interests in 10 partnerships with Palmetto MobileNet, L.P. that it did not already own. The partnerships cover about two million potential customers in North and South Carolina.

Alltel did not disclose the value of the transaction, but CT Communications Inc. said Alltel paid $455 million in cash for the partnerships. CTC holds a 22.4 percent interest in Palmetto and said it will receive around $97 million from the sale.

More here.

Quote of the Day: Bruce Schneier

Regarding theater owners considering to install jamming systems for cell phones in movie theaters:

"It makes sense. If I were going to commit armed robbery, I'd probably want to bring a cell phone jammer with me."

- Bruce Schneier

Supercomputer Builds a Virus

The model shows one million atoms over 50 billionths of a second.
Image osurce: Nature / University of Illinois / NCSA

Helen Pearson writes in Nature:

One of the world's most powerful supercomputers has conjured a fleeting moment in the life of a virus. The researchers say the simulation is the first to capture a whole biological organism in such intricate molecular detail.

The simulation pushes today's computing power to the limit. But it is only a first step. In future researchers hope that bigger, longer simulations will reveal details about how viruses invade cells and cause disease.

Klaus Schulten at the University of Illinois, Urbana, and his colleagues built a computer model of the satellite tobacco mosaic virus, a tiny spherical package of RNA.

More here.

Hacking Made Easy

Brian Krebs writes in The Washington Post:

The Web-based software employed by ring members to manage large numbers of illegally commandeered computers is just as easy to use as basic commercial office programs. No knowledge of computer programming or hacking techniques is required to operate the software, which allows the user to infiltrate and steal financial information from thousands of PCs simultaneously.

The quality of the software tools cyber criminals are using to sort through the mountains of information they've stolen is a clear sign that they are seeking more efficient ways to monetize that data, experts say.

More here.

Gapingvoid: Thriving in Faster, Smarter Markets

Via Enjoy!

Distributed Citizen Surveillance

Via Boing Boing.

The East Orange Police Department in New Jersey is enlisting residents to monitor surveillance camera video of their neighborhoods. The police will apparently invite certain citizens to participate in the "Virtual Community Patrol." From The Star Ledger:

Soon-to-be-chosen residents will get access to a a Web site that provides panoramic views of their block, allows them to type in general complaints, pinpoint a problem location, immediately send that information to police headquarters, and simultaneously activate hidden police surveillance cameras, (police director Jose) Cordero said...

"We plan on giving the community control of a very powerful technology," Cordero said.

More here.

Gadget of the Day: Swiss Army Knife MP3 Player

Image source: Gizmodo

Via Gizmodo.

Victorinox has been making Swiss Army knives with USB drives for a while now, but their Swiss Beat MP3 Player has got to be the first gadget that will both let you listen to Michael Bolton’s “Time, Love and Tenderness” as well as slit someone’s carotid artery.

Swiss Beat is a removable USB flash-based 1GB music player that handles the WMA, WAV, and Ogg formats, has a built-in FM radio as well as a voice recorder that saves to mp3. It works with PCs and Macs, comes with earphones, a remote control, a belt clip and an arm strap for jogging. Oh, and the three most basic of Swiss Army Knife tools: a two inch blade, mini-scissors and a nail file. MSRP is supposed to hover around $250 but ThinkGeek’s selling it for $169.99.

Georgia Limits Broadband Regulation

A UPI newsbrief, via, reports that:

The Georgia Legislature has passed a bill barring the Public Service Commission from regulating broadband and wireless communications.

The measure, which now goes to the desk of the governor to be signed, was championed by BellSouth and other telcos that insist unfettered markets would allow continued expansion.

More here.

Microsoft Goes Public with 'Blue Hat' Hacker Briefings

Robert McMillan writes on InfoWorld:

Microsoft is going public with some of the hacking information discussed at its Blue Hat Security Briefings event. On Thursday, just days after the end of its third Blue Hat conference, the software vendor posted the first blog entries at a new Web site. Microsoft is also promising to publish more details on the secretive invitation-only event.

The Web site will include Microsoft staffer's "reflections on BlueHat 3" as well as photos, podcasts, and video interviews with some of the presenters, said Security Program Manager Kymberlee Price in a blog posting. "We sincerely hope that our BlueHat 3 speakers (and BlueHat 1 & 2 speakers) will post their comments to the site as well and share their BlueHat experience," she wrote.

More here.

CeBit: Vendors Flunk Wireless Security Test

Jeremy Kirk writes on InfoWorld:

More than half of the wireless networks deployed at the Cebit technology show in Hanover, Germany, last week had no encryption enabled, making the systems behind them prime targets, according to Kaspersky Lab, a security vendor.

Kaspersky detected 300 wireless networks on March 9 and 10, during which 56 percent lacked security while only 44 percent used the WEP (Wired Equivalent Privacy) security protocol. The findings are surprising considering the IT-savvy crowd at the trade show and increasing awareness of computer security issues.

More here.

The $200 Billion Telecom Ripoff -- Summarized!

Thanks to David S. Isenberg, who writes over on his

The Nieman Foundation for Journalism at Harvard University has published a great summary of Bruce Kushkick's $200 Billion Broadband Scandal book. According to Kushnick, the reason the U.S. is falling behind the rest of the world in broadband-per-capita is that the Bells promised broadband, but then lied, cheated and stole instead of delivering it!

Kushnick writes:

By 2006, according to telecommunication companies’ own documents, 86 million customers in the United States should have received 45 Mbps service . . . the merger(s) of the phone companies that control the phone networks decreased competition. Instead of deploying the high-speed fiber-optic lines they promised, they were content to collect profits, tinker with existing copper connections instead of rewiring, and roll out inferior DSL services.

UK: Hacking for Terror?

Mark Hosenball writes in Newsweek:

U.S. and British investigators appear to have inflicted a major blow to the online jihadist movement by arresting a U.K.-based terror suspect. The officials now believe the man British authorities are holding is an influential Islamic extremist cyberwarrior who used as his pseudonym an Arabic word for terrorist. NEWSWEEK was asked by U.S. authorities not to publish the suspect's Web user name because of continuing investigations.

Two U.S. counterterror officials, who asked not to be identified because they were discussing a sensitive investigation, said authorities now believe that the person who used the Terrorist login is a 22-year-old resident of West London named Younis Tsouli, who was arrested in London on terror-related charges by Scotland Yard last October. Two alleged associates in the London area were arrested at the same time on similar charges.

More here.

UK: Nominet Loses All Three Restructuring Votes

Kieren McCarthy writes on The Register:

Proposed changes to Nominet's Memorandum of Association and Articles of Association were designed to give the company greater freedom in the internet market. A third resolution would have altered the weighted voting system to give smaller members a greater say by capping any one member's influence.

All three resolutions put forward to members fell when two of Nominet's three largest members unexpectedly voted against them. No resolution reached even a simple majority thanks to a weighted vote system that gives disproportionate power to companies that have registered the largest number of .uk domains.

Nominet chairman Bob Gilbert told The Register he still doesn't know why both Pipex and Fasthosts voted against the moves. Neither company has been available for comment.

More here.

EarthLink Expands VoIP Offering

Ed Oswald writes on BetaNews:

EarthLink said Thursday that it would expand its packaged DSL and phone service to eight additional markets in an effort to give consumers a alternative to local phone companies. First announced in January, the service is made possible through a partnership with Covad.

Where EarthLink's service differs is at the phone company's central office. Until the phone call reaches that point, it acts as a POTS, or "plain old telephone service." This means users can place a call using their standard phone line.

More here.

Juniper Drops Message Board Users Lawsuit

Olga Kharif writes on Businessweek Online's "The Tech Beat":

It became known today that, on March 9, networking company Juniper finally dropped its lawsuit of Light Reading message board users. I am sure glad it did. Juniper, which has grown by leaps and bounds over the years, needs to concentrate on revving up its growth, which is slowing down, instead of pursuing message board users who say bad things about the company.

Plus, I think people should be free to express their opinions on the Web. Sure, some of these opinions will be -- and are -- erroneous and offensive. But, I think, most people know that message board messages are not statements of fact. Companies simply have to develop thick skin where such comments are concerned. So, kudos to Juniper for nixing the lawsuit!

UK Warns U.S. Over Jet Software Code

Matt Chapman writes on

The UK has warned America that it will cancel its £12bn order for the Joint Strike Fighter if the US does not hand over full access to the computer software code that controls the jets.

Lord Drayson, minister for defence procurement, told the The Daily Telegraph that the planes were useless without control of the software as they could effectively be "switched off" by the Americans without warning.

More here.

F-Secure Bluetooth Honeypot Prototype

Image source: F-Secure

Mikko writes over on the F-Secure "News from the Lab" Blog:

We've been developing a Bluetooth honeypot. An early prototype was given a test run at the CeBIT trade fair during the week. The embedded device announces itself as a Bluetooth phone in discoverable mode. It detects Bluetooth devices within a one hundred meter range and creates a list of the device names found. It also accepts all file transfers and scans them for known mobile viruses.

We were scanning from our Hall 7 booth for a week. At any given time we would see more than 100 Bluetooth devices wandering within our range. Grand total: 12500 unique devices that a) had Bluetooth, b) had it enabled, c) had it visible. Unbelievable.

More here.

Phone-Cable Fight Spills Over Into Print Ads

Arshad Mohammed writes in The Washington Post:

A group backed by telephone giant AT&T Inc. hit hard at the cable industry this week with newspaper ads blasting TV rates as too high. Cable companies fired back by issuing a nine-page, footnoted rebuttal.

A full-fledged public relations war is gearing up between two industries that used to have little to do with each other, as Congress considers legislation that would make it easier for phone companies to offer TV service to consumers.

More here.

User Friendly: Heed the Robots.txt


Click for larger image.

'Free IPod' Takes Privacy Toll

Ryan Singel writes on Wired News:

The big business of renting, selling and buying personal information about netizens was put on notice this week by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer in a high-profile case that exposed shady privacy practices and the dubious value of the once-promising Truste "privacy seal."

Spitzer announced Monday that e-mail marketing giant Datran Media had agreed to a $1.1 million fine for knowingly buying marketing lists from companies with privacy policies that promised not to sell or transfer the lists to a third party.

The case, which Spitzer described as the biggest violation of a privacy policy yet, promises to change the way the industry does business, said Chris Hoofnagle, an attorney with the Electronic Privacy Information Center who regularly publicized sales of lists that were supposedly protected by privacy policies.

More here.

Six Apart Gets Additional $12M in Funding

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

Six Apart Ltd., a provider of blogging software, on Wednesday said it had received around $12 million in a third round of funding for use in new products, international expansion and network growth.

Barak Berkowitz, chief executive of the San Francisco, California-based company said this brings the funding Six Apart has raised to roughly $23 million since its founding four years ago by Ben and Mena Trott, a husband and wife team.

Six Apart plans to use the financing in part to help launch a new service, code-named Comet.

More here.

Wednesday, March 15, 2006

16 March 1918: Happy Birthday, Nobel Laureate Frederick Reines


Frederick Reines
Image source: Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia.

Frederick Reines (March 16, 1918 – August 26, 1998) was an American physicist. He was awarded the 1995 Nobel Prize in Physics for his detection of the neutrino in the neutrino experiment, and is considered to be the only scientist in history so intimately associated with the discovery and subsequent investigation of an elementary particle.

In 1944 Reines began working Los Alamos National Laboratory, where he became a member, and later a leader, of the Theoretical Division at the University of California, Irvine, where he also served as a professor and founding dean of Physical Sciences.

There, during the mid-1950’s, he and his colleague, Clyde Cowan, confirmed the existence neutrinos during the mid-1950’s, which since its proposal by Wolfgang Pauli 20 years earlier, had only been theoretical. From then on Reines dedicated the major part of his career to the study of the neutrino’s properties and interactions, which would influence study of the neutrino for future researchers to come, including the discovery of neutrinos emitted from Supernova SN1987A by the Irvine-Michigan-Brookhaven Colloboration, which used Reines’ research to demonstrate the neutrino’s role in the collapse of stars.

More here.

Honorable mention: Luis E. Miramontes (March 16, 1925 – September 13, 2004). Mexican chemist known as the co-inventor of the first oral contraceptive.

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

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

Virginia Student Recites 8,784 Digits of Pi

An AP newswire article, via ABC News, reports that:

A high school student Tuesday recited 8,784 digits of Pi the non-repeating and non-terminating decimal likely placing him among the top Pi-reciters in the world.

Gaurav Rajav, 15, had hoped to recite 10,790 digits and set a new record in the United States and North America. But he remembered enough to potentially place third in national and North American Pi recitation and 12th in the world.

More here.

Researchers Warn of DNS Recursion Attacks

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

First detected late last year, the new attacks direct such massive amounts of spurious data against victim computers that even flagship technology companies could not cope. In one of the early cases examined, the unknown assailant apparently seized control of an Internet name server in South Africa and deliberately corrupted its contents.

Experts traced at least 1,500 attacks that briefly shut down commercial Web sites, large Internet providers and leading Internet infrastructure companies during a period of weeks. The attacks were so targeted that most Internet users did not notice widespread effects.

Ken Silva, the chief security officer for VeriSign Inc., compared the scale of attacks to the damage caused in October 2002 when nine of the 13 computer "root" servers that manage global Internet traffic were crippled by a powerful electronic attack. VeriSign operates two of the 13 root server computers, but its machines were unaffected.

"This is significantly larger than what we saw in 2002, by an order of magnitude," Silva said.

See also:

More here.

FrSIRT Puts Exploits Up for Sale

Ryan Naraine writes on eWeek:

Independent security research outfit is putting its database of security exploits behind the paid curtain.

FrSIRT, previously known as K-Otik, has shut down the public exploits section of its Web site and announced that all exploits and proof-of-concept code will be sold through its subscription-based VNS (Vulnerability Notification Service).

The 3-year-old company, which operates out of Montpellier, France, is considered the go-to place for finding exploit code for known software vulnerabilities and has been a thorn in the side of many vendors, including Microsoft.

More here.

Gapingvoid: Confused Telco Exec

Via Enjoy!

Political Truth of the Day: 'And This -- In The United States of America!'

I generally try to stay away from politically-charged issues (well, okay -- not so much sometimes), but I have to link to this over on Jon Amato's Crooks and Liars blog for two reasons.

One: I love James Spader, even though I don't watch the show that this clip is from (Boston Legal).

Two: I absoultely, positively, and with wholehearted & genuine patriotism appreciate the gist of the point being made. In fact, I think anyone who reads these words I type should think long and hard about the issues he discusses in the clip. And Bravo to the shows' producers for being brave enough to write them into the script in the way that they did -- it really should hit home,

Via Crooks and Liars.

Alan Shore (James Spader) from Boston Legal gives one of those great monologues that we all wished would be said by somebody other than a great actor. In the episode "Stick it," Alan Shore's secretary, Melissa (Marisa Coughlan), is arrested for tax evasion, he takes on the case of this outspoken girl who says her late, patriotic grandfather would be proud of her for challenging the government.

[Spader's character] Shore: At a presidential rally, parade or appearance. If you have on a supportive t-shirt you can be there. If you're wearing or carrying something in protest, you can be removed, This in the United States of America.- This in the United States of America! Is Melissa Hughes the only one embarrassed?

"James Spader's character gives such a fiery and passionate speech about the lies, mistruths and unethical behavior of this Administration that it made me jump from the couch and yell triumphantly at my TV. Covered everything from lies on WMD, to torture, Abu Ghirab, Guantanamo, and, most importantly, illegal wiretapping"

Watch the clip here.


BlackBerry Uers Frustrated by Recent Outages

Tom Krazit writes on C|Net News:

Sporadic interruptions in Research In Motion's BlackBerry service to four major U.S. carriers were reported by some customers on Wednesday, with no signs of when a fix might arrive.

Several customers with Cingular, T-Mobile, Verizon Wireless and Sprint's Nextel service reported delays, outages and problems with their BlackBerry Internet Service, or BIS, starting early this week and continuing through Wednesday. A Cingular customer told CNET that his carrier support representatives were pointing to an issue with RIM's servers--a diagnosis that a Cingular representative confirmed.

RIM representatives were unable to provide information about the outages. T-Mobile and Verizon representatives had no immediate comment on the problems, and a Sprint representative did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

More here.

Texas Brokers e-Mail Deal With IBM

Dibya Sarkar writes on

The Texas Department of Information Resources (DIR) has signed an agreement with IBM to develop, implement and manage e-mail services statewide.

State agencies, local governments and the education community have the option of selecting Lotus Notes, Microsoft Outlook and Web e-mail based on a per-user rate. They can also mix and match their options based on individual or staff needs, meaning all e-mail clients will interoperate seamlessly.

More here.

Orb: Wireless Router with a Fresh, Futuristic, Sleek Design

Image source: TechEBlog

Via TechEBlog.

Breaking completley from the standard design for routers, the Orb is striking yet innovative. It consists of two sections: a network homeplug that “transfer(s) the network signal into the normal electricity network” and a wireless router with integrated light-bulb connector.

LiteOn has not yet released pricing or availability information.

ICANN to Test Non-English Domain Names

An AP newswire article, via MSNBC, reports that:

The Internet's key oversight agency has outlined a plan for testing domain names entirely in non-English characters, bringing closer to reality a change highly sought by Asian and Arabic Internet users.

The Internet Corporation for Assigned Names and Numbers announced a tentative timetable Tuesday that calls for tests to begin in the second half of the year. The tests would help ensure that introducing non-English suffixes wouldn't wreck a global addressing system that millions of Internet users rely upon every day.

The Internet's main traffic directories know only 37 characters: the 26 letters of the Latin script used in English, the 10 numerals and a hyphen.

More here.

Network Neutrality: Qwest CEO Supports 'Tiered-Internet'

Via Red Herring.

The chief executive of U.S. phone company Qwest said Wednesday he supports making Internet portals and content providers pay for bandwidth provided by companies like his, rejecting the notion that the Net is a neutral zone where customers shouldn’t be charged for carriage.

Speaking at a VoIP convention in San Jose, California, Richard Notebaert said the communications industry has always rented bigger pipes to those wishing to pay for them and that charging customers for more bandwidth is the way the industry works.

“A content provider is a customer. If they want to buy [bandwidth], we want to sell,” said Mr. Notebaert at the VON conference. “If they don’t want to buy, they don’t have to.”

More here.