Saturday, March 25, 2006

Bill Shatner's Latest Enterprise

Frank Ahrens writes in The Washington Post:

Ah, William Shatner. How effortlessly he moves from show to show, era to era, platform to platform.

For those of you who missed him as Capt. James T. Kirk of the Starship Enterprise in "Star Trek" in the 1960s, there was "The Barbary Coast" in the 1970s. Or maybe you bought his 1968 album, which featured a spoken-word version of "Lucy in the Sky With Diamonds."

No? Maybe you saw him as hood-hurdling police officer T.J. Hooker in the 1980s, or on "Rescue 911." Missed those? Maybe you read his "Tek War" novels. You probably saw him sing in television ads in the 1990s, or in the film "Miss Congeniality" or in any number of self-spoofing roles that continue today.

Heck, he's even created a new character -- mad-cow-afflicted, gun-toting lawyer Denny Crane on ABC's "Boston Legal" -- that may, may enter the Shatnerian pantheon alongside Capt. Kirk.

More here.

Widespread Outages for World of Warcraft

Via Netcraft.

World of Warcraft is experiencing lengthy downtime, and blaming its service provider for the outages. The virtual world, which now has more than 6 million users, also announced emergency maintenance outages overnight on a large number of game servers (known as "realms").

"We'd like to make all players aware that at this time our internet service provider is experiencing significant complications, and as a result the playability on a large portion of realms has been adversely affected," said a message from Epifanio, Senior Game Master, on the WoW forums.. "Symptoms include but are not limited to lag, random disconnections and slow authentication. Our network technicians are doing everything in their power to work with our ISP so that this issue may be resolved as swiftly as possible."

World of Warcraft is hosted by AT&T, which houses servers for the game at data centers in Los Angeles and Redwood City, Calif., and Ashburn, Va. The outages affected the web site as well as the game servers.

More here.

Skynet Alert: Protecting America With the Robolobster

Image source: Gizmodo

Via Gizmodo.

The fight for world domination never lets up but humans aren’t alone in their never-ending war. DARPA, the same folks who brought us, more or less, the Internet, recently developed a robotic lobster designed to swoop over seabeds, looking for mines and other offensive devices.

Dubbed the Robolobster (for “robotic lobster”) by DARPA’s imaginers, these deep-sea biometric critters actually use electronic nervous systems to sense their surroundings. You’ve really go to hand it to outfits like DARPA and the Office of Naval Research because of their ability to soundly use as much of the Department of Defense’s vast budget for such important projects.

User Friendly: Cult of Personality


Click for larger image.

Border Patrol to Expand UAV Usage

Dibya Sarkar writes on

By the end of this month, U.S. Border Patrol officials plan to monitor a larger area of the southwest border with an unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), which has been in use since September 2005. They plan to add a second one this summer.

Chief David Aguilar said yesterday that officials will increase the UAV surveillance footprint from 150 miles to 300 miles in Arizona at the end of this month. And because the program has been a success, officials will start using a second UAV in Arizona by June, he said.

More here.

Sweet: Death Star Theater

Image source: TechEBlog

Via TechEBlog.

Originally conceptualized by Doug Chiang, Dillon Works managed to transform his ideas into the "Death Star Theater".

This incredible creation features 10 seats, automatic doors, twinkling star fields, backlit vintage posters, a wet bar with popcorn maker, THX sound system, and authentic movie props.

More here.

Microsoft Security Chief to Step Down

Robert McMillan writes on InfoWorld:

After four years at the helm of Microsoft's, Mike Nash is taking a break. This June he will go on sabbatical after handing over responsibilities to his replacement, Ben Fathi.

Nash led Microsoft's Security Technology Unit during a period in which the security of Microsoft's products was increasingly scrutinized following a number of worldwide worm attacks, including Slammer and MyDoom.

The 15-year Microsoft veteran was responsible for directing Microsoft's response to these threats as well as for setting its overall security strategy as the software vendor struggled against a public perception that its products were insecure.

More here.

IE Under Attack: Microsoft Ponders Emergency Patch

Ryan Naraine writes on eWeek:

Microsoft confirms a wave of drive-by downloads targeting a zero-day browser vulnerability and says Internet Explorer users can expect a patch on April 11, if not sooner.

Malicious hackers are using hijacked Web servers and compromised sites to launch a wave of zero-day attacks against an unpatched flaw in Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser.

The first wave of drive-by downloads was spotted on March 25, and security experts tracking the attack say the threat is growing at a rate of 10 new malicious URLs every hour.

More here.

Sunbelt: Seen in the wild: Spyware Quake

Image source: The Sunblelt Blog

Adam Thomas writes over on the Sunbelt Software blog:

There is a new rogue Anti-Spyware application out there serving as a replacement for Spy Falcon and SpyAxe.

Spyware Quake is installed through the infamous VCodec trojan as well as various exploits.

More here.

Colorado Police Use MySpace to ID Suspects

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

Detectives used profiles posted on the MySpace social networking Web site to identify six suspects in a rape and robbery that began when a party turned violent, leaving blood "in almost every room of the house," officials said.

Six men were arrested in connection with the Feb. 23 rampage, and a seventh suspect was being sought, Detective Ali Bartley said Friday.

The victim, whose name was withheld, became acquainted with the suspects through MySpace, authorities said.

More here.

Gadget of the Day: Lego Lie Detector

Image source: TechEBlog

Via TechEBlog.

So you’ve seen the strangest Lego creations, now check out Michael Gasperi’s “Galvanic Skin Response Sensor” aka lie detector. It’s made from an RCX control brick, foil-lined velcro strips, and 9V wire. Overall, this is a refreshing concept executed well. Make a Frenchman Happy

Via Enjoy!

Google Bhind Three Quarters of UK Web Referrals

William Eazel writes on

Internet search giant Google dominates the search engine market in the UK, referring nearly three out of every four search engine visitors, according to new data from web analysis firm WebSideStory.

For the month of February, Google referred an average of 74.67 per cent of all UK visitors to other sites on the web, compared to just 9.3 per cent for its nearest competitor, Yahoo, according to the WebSideStory Index.

More here.

NSA Might Listen to Lawyer Calls

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

The National Security Agency could have legally monitored ordinarily confidential communications between doctors and patients or attorneys and their clients, the Justice Department said Friday of its controversial warrantless surveillance program.

Responding to questions from Congress, the department also said that it sees no prohibition to using information collected under the NSA's program in court.

More here.

EDS Granted $3 Billion Extension on Navy Network Contract

Ellen McCarthy writes in The Washington Post:

Electronic Data Systems Corp. said yesterday that the Navy had extended for three years its contract to build and manage a massive internal military network, adding about $3 billion to the value of a money-losing project that has dragged down the company's earnings.

EDS was originally picked to build the Navy Marine Corps Intranet in 2000 in a deal expected to be worth about $6.8 billion. The contract, which called for EDS to consolidate more than 1,000 individual networks, was riddled with challenges and delays almost from the start.

More here.

New FEC Rules Would Regulate Paid Web Ads

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

The Federal Election Commission proposed new rules Friday that would leave almost all Internet political activity unregulated. The proposal would, however, require paid advertisements for federal candidates on the Internet to be paid for with money regulated by federal campaign law.

There has been an explosion of political activity on the Internet and political bloggers who offer diverse views say they should be free of government regulation.

More here.

Friday, March 24, 2006

25 March 1538: Happy Birthday, Christopher Clavius


Christopher Clavius (1538–1612)
German mathematician and astronomer.

Via Wikipedia.

Christopher Clavius, (March 25, 1538 – February 12, 1612) was a German Jesuit mathematician and astronomer who was the main architect of the modern Gregorian calendar. In his last years he was probably the most respected astronomer in Europe and his textbooks were used for astronomical education for over fifty years in Europe and even in more remote lands (on account of being used by missionaries).

As an astronomer Clavius held strictly to the geocentric model of the solar system, in which all the heavens rotate about the Earth. Though he opposed the heliocentric model of Copernicus, he recognized problems with the orthodox model. He was treated with great respect by Galileo, who visited him in 1611 and discussed the new observations being made with the telescope; Clavius had by that time accepted the new discoveries as genuine, though he retained doubts about the reality of the mountains on the Moon. In light of this fact, it is very ironic that a large crater on the moon is named for him.

More here.

Honorable mention: Saturn's largest moon, Titan, is discovered by Christian Huygens on 25 March 1655.

More DRM Badness: EMI releases Brazilian DRM CDs That Totally Hose Their Customers

Via Boing Boing.

Brazilian mega-star Marisa Monte's new CDs from EMI ("Infinito Particular" and "Universo ao Meu Redor") come with DRM that can't be uninstalled, and requires you to "agree" to a contract that isn't published in Portuguese. Even if you disagree, the malware is installed.

The DRM blocks you from playing the CD on Linux and MacOS, and from loading it onto an iPod. This, just as the Brazilian government has launched a Computers for All initiative to distribute 1,000,000 Linux PCs, seems particularly contemptuous of the Brazilian people.

More here.

FEMA Breaks Promise on Katrina Contracts


An AP newswire article, via MSNBC, reports that:

FEMA has broken its promise to reopen four multimillion-dollar no-bid contracts for Hurricane Katrina work, including three that federal auditors say wasted significant amounts of money.

Officials said they awarded the four contracts last October to speed recovery efforts that might have been slowed by competitive bidding. Some critics, however, suggested they were rewards for politically connected firms.

Acting FEMA Director R. David Paulison pledged last fall to rebid the contracts, which were awarded to Shaw Group Inc., Bechtel Corp., CH2M Hill Inc. and Fluor Corp. Later, the agency acknowledged the rebidding wouldn’t happen until February.

This week, FEMA said the contracts wouldn’t be rebid after all. In fact, they have been extended, in part because of good performance, said Michael Widomski, a spokesman for the Federal Emergency Management Agency.

More here.

The Nation: Google's Wi-Fi Privacy Ploy

Jeff Chester writes on The Nation:

The digital gold rush is on across America, as cities scramble to develop free or low-cost Wi-Fi zones. These public on-ramps to the Internet are designed to provide every citizen with a form of always-on, high-speed Internet access--at the playground, in the office or at home--at low or no cost.

Dozens of communities large and small, in red states and blue, are either planning or currently constructing Wi-Fi systems. Community leaders--from Philadelphia; Houston; Columbia, South Carolina; and San Francisco, to name a few--recognize that creating a citywide Wi-Fi zone is not only vital for economic development and public safety but helps insure that Americans who can't now afford digital communications on their own can also tap in to the riches and convenience of the Internet. But there is no such thing as a free digital lunch.

More here.

Jumpstart to Pay to Settle Anti-Spam Charges

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

An Internet marketing company that offered free movie tickets in exchange for friends' e-mail addresses agreed to pay a $900,000 fine to settle charges it violated federal anti-spam laws, authorities said Friday.

Jumpstart Technologies LLC of San Francisco was accused by the Federal Trade Commission of disguising commercial e-mail as personal messages and misleading consumers about the terms of its FreeFlixTix promotion, FTC staff attorney Lisa Rosenthal said.

More here.

Russian Duma Praises Hacker Crew for Defacing 'Anti-Russian' Web Sites

Roberto Preatoni writes on zone-h:

A group of Russian hackers were congratulated in the State Duma this week for unleashing a crippling patriotic cyber blow on an Israeli Web site that published “anti-Russian” ideas in a recent article.

The congratulatory statement is believed to be the first official public statement by a government official giving thanks to Web site defacers for knocking offline an ideological foe. The decree will undoubtedly add to the debate of the existence of state-sponsored hacking groups.

More here.

Apple Computer Set to Mark 30th Birthday

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

Silicon Valley's historic orchards have virtually disappeared but one notable fruit still stands: Apple.

As the storied company celebrates its 30th birthday in a week [1 April 1976], Apple Computer Inc. will have brushed off its bruises from product failures and arguably misguided decisions to emerge with a shine that's more than skin-deep.

More here.

Hard Disk Drive Organization Announces a New Sector Length Standard

Via Geekzone.

IDEMA, the International Disk Drive, Equipment, and Materials Association, has announced the results of an industry committee assembled to identify a new and longer sector standard for future magnetic hard disk drives (HDDs). This Committee recommended replacing the 30 year-standard of 512 bytes with sectors having ability to store 4096 bytes.

Dr. Ed Grochowski, executive director of IDEMA US, says that adopting a 4K-byte sector length facilitates further increases in data density for hard drives which will increase storage capacity for users while continuing to reduce cost per gigabyte.

More here.

RadioShack to Close Three Austin Stores

Via The Austin Business Journal.

RadioShack Corp. will close three underperforming stores in Austin as part of a plan to turn around its finances.

Austin stores to be closed are at 6001 W. Parmer Lane (McNeil Crossing), 13776 N. U.S. Highway 183 (Anderson Mill) and 500 Canyon Ridge Drive (Tech Ridge).

The Austin closures represent 10 percent of the area's 30 stores.

More here.

N.Y. Photographer Held for Hours by Police Over Flag Photo

Via Boing Boing.

Having been the subject of unwarranted police background checks and being detained when shooting in the streets of Oakland myself, I was dismayed to read about this guy, Ben Hider, who was detained by police for two hours, searched, forced to empty his pockets and frisked. His crime? Taking photos of the flags out in front of the courthouse.

Although he was issued an apology this is just unacceptable behavior on the part of the police. Photography is not a crime.

U.S. State Department Is Criticized for Purchasing Chinese PC's

Keith Bradsher writes in The New York Times:

A State Department purchase of more than 15,000 computers built by the Lenovo Group of China is starting to draw criticism in the latest sign of American unease about the role of foreign companies in the American economy.

The computers, worth more than $13 million, are coming from factories in Raleigh, N.C., and Monterrey, Mexico, that were part of the personal computer division that Lenovo purchased from I.B.M. last May. Sean McCormack, a State Department spokesman, said at the department's daily media briefing on Wednesday that the computers were intended for unclassified systems and would be serviced by the former I.B.M. division.

The computer contracts are drawing heat from a diverse group of liberal and conservative critics who have been warning about China's growing power for years. These critics have been encouraged by the Congressional scrutiny given to a plan by a company controlled by the royal family of Dubai in the United Arab Emirates to acquire operations at six American ports; the company has since agreed to give up those operations.

More here.

User Friendly: B-List Bots


Click for larger image.

Spyware Kits for Sale: £10

René Millman writes on SC Magazine Online:

A Russian website has appeared on the internet selling spyware kits for ten pounds.

The spyware kit, called WebAttacker, is currently available for approximately £10 ($17). The website, which refers to its creators only as spyware and adware developers, touts the strengths of its software and makes the kits available for purchase online - even offering buyers technical support.

Included in the kits are scripts designed to simplify infecting computers. The buyer only needs to send spam to email addresses inviting recipients to visit a compromised website.

Samples found used newsworthy topics to lure unwary users. One presented itself as a warning of the deadly H5N1 bird flu virus and provided links to the bogus website, which purported to contain advice on oneself.

More here.

Who needs terrorists? We can cause terror all by ourselves...

Thanks to Bruce Schneier, who reminds us that:

A worker at a Downtown building who was using a pellet gun with a scope to scare pigeons prompted a massive police response that led to the shutdown of several blocks this afternoon.

Dozens of motorcycle and special response officers responded to the area.

The Fort Pitt Tunnels inbound were shut down temporarily.

The Port Authority was forced to reroute buses around the area.

People in some buildings were told to stay inside while those in others were evacuated.

More here.

Sneaky Gadget of the Day: USB Spy Mouse

Image source: TechEBlog

Via TechEBlog.

Keep a close ear on your computer with the CP-1. Hidden inside this otherwise normal looking mouse is a condenser microphone - capable of picking up on any nearby conversations. It measures 53 x 95 x 35 mm and weighs just 75g.

FCC Chief: AT&T Can Limit Net Bandwidth

Goodbye, Network Neutrality. We hardly knew ye.

Preston Gralla writes on NetworkingPipeline:

FCC Chief Kevin Martin yesterday [21 March 2006] gave his support to AT&T and other telcos who want to be able to limit bandwidth to sites like Google, unless those sites pay extortion fees. Martin made it clear in a speech yesterday that he supports such a a "tiered" Internet.

Martin told attendees at the TelecomNext show that telcos should be allowed to charge web sites whatever they want if those sites want adequate bandwidth.

He threw in his lot with AT&T, Verizon, and the other telcos, who are no doubt salivating at the prospect at charging whatever the market can bear.

He did throw a bone to those who favor so-called "net neutrality" -- the idea that telcos and other ISPs should not be allowed to limit services or bandwidth, or charge sites extra fees. He said that the FCC "has the authority necessary" to enforce network neutrality violations. He added that it had done so already, when it stepped in to stop an ISP from blocking Vonage VoIP service.

But Martin's interpretation of "net neutrality" is far too narrow, and almost besides the point. By siding with telcos who want to be able to offer adequate bandwidth to sites that pay up, and to limit bandwidth to sites that don't, he'll help kill off new sites that can't afford to fork over the money.

More here.

National Archives Puts Over 400,000 State Department Records Online

Rob Thormeyer writes on

The National Archives and Records Administration is making available online, for the first time, over 400,000 State Department records and telegrams from 1973 and 1974.

According to NARA, the documents—from State’s Central Foreign Policy Files database—consist of historical telegrams, index references to paper documents created in 1974, and withdrawal notices for telegrams and documents that could not be made public for national security reasons.

More here.

Toon: The More Things Change...

Click for larger image.

40,000 BP Workers Exposed in (Yet Another) Ernst & Young Laptop Loss

Ashlee Vance writes on The Register:

Like sands through the hourglass, these are The Days of Ernst & Young laptop loss. Yes, friends, The Register can confirm that BP has been added to the list of Ernst & Young customers whose personal data has been exposed after a laptop theft. BP joins Sun Microsystems, Cisco and IBM in this not so exclusive club.

Ernst & Young has sent out a letter to all 38,000 BP employees in the US, telling them that a laptop theft had exposed their names and social security numbers. To keep the BP staff's mind at ease, Ernst & Young said that the file name containing their info did not indicate what type of information was on the laptop, and the laptop was password protected. Phew!

Ernst & Young confirmed that this is the very same laptop that held data on the Sun, Cisco and IBM workers. All of these data losses were revealed by us in a set of exclusive stories. Ernst & Young also recently lost four more laptops in Miami, although it has not said which customers were affected in those incidents.

More here.

Police Chief in Maryland Urges Close Of Internet Police Forum

Ernesto Londoño writes in The Washington Post:

Montgomery County Police Chief J. Thomas Manger called on the department's union yesterday to take down an online message board that some police officers have used as a forum for disparaging, and sometimes racist, remarks about colleagues, supervisors, immigrants and other members of the community.

The union said it would not shut down the board, saying that it serves a legitimate purpose and that doing so would curtail officers' right to free speech.

More here.

Australia: Hopes Rise for $3B Telstra Network

Michael Sainsbury writes on Australia IT:

Hopes are rising that Telstra will build its planned $3 billion high-speed fibre-optic network, after the company agreed to peace talks with the competition regulator in an attempt to protect the investment from its rivals.

The new network - the centrepiece of Telstra chief executive Sol Trujillo's $11 billion overhaul of the company - would see fast internet and video services made available to 4 million homes in major cities across the country.

Australian Competition and Consumer Commission chairman Graeme Samuel told The Australian yesterday that talks had begun "at the highest level" on possible investment safeguards. "Telstra proposals around its new investment are starting to take shape," Mr Samuel said.

More here.

Some Readers See Red Over Washington Post's New Blogger

Howard Kurtz writes in The Washington Post:

The Washington Post Co.'s Web operation has touched off an online furor by hiring as a blogger a 24-year-old former Bush administration aide who co-founded a conservative site and recently referred to Coretta Scott King as a "communist."

Ben Domenech, an editor at the conservative Regnery Publishing, said he regrets the King reference, which he insists was tongue-in-cheek, and that the reaction to his new "Red America" blog is "a little meaner" than he expected.

More here.

Check Point Withdraws Offer to Acquire Sourcefire

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

A leading Israeli software company failed to resolve security objections by the Bush administration over its plans to buy a smaller U.S. technology rival and abruptly abandoned the $225 million deal.

Check Point Software Technologies Ltd. of Ramat Gan, Israel, withdrew its plans Thursday near the conclusion of a rare, full-blown investigation by a U.S. review panel over the company's plans to buy Sourcefire Inc.

Check Point had been told U.S. officials feared the transaction could endanger some of government's most sensitive computer systems.

More here.

Alcatel, Lucent Discuss Merger

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

French telecom equipment provider Alcatel is in talks with its smaller U.S. rival Lucent Technologies to create a combination with sales of 21 billion ($25.33 billion) and a combined market capitalization of more than 28 billion ($33.78 billion), the companies said.

They broke off previous merger talks in 2001 after Lucent balked at the idea of an Alcatel takeover, and they said Thursday they were discussing a potential "merger of equals" that was intended to be priced at market, meaning with no premium on their stock prices.

Their merger would produce a company larger than Cisco Systems and would mark the latest round of consolidation in the telecom and media sector as companies respond to the rapid conversion of technologies and the growth of "triple play," the provision of TV, high-speed Internet and voice services over phone lines.

More here.

Thursday, March 23, 2006

24 March 1874: Happy Birthday, Harry Houdini


Harry Houdini became world-renowned for his stunts and feats of
escapology even more so than his magical illusions.

Image source: Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia.

Harry Houdini (born Ehrich Weiss; March 24, 1874 – October 31, 1926) was one of the most famous magicians, escapologists, and stunt performers of all time as well as an investigator of spiritualists. He legally changed his name to "Harry Houdini" in 1913.

Houdini was born on March 24, 1874 in Budapest, Hungary, to Jewish parents: his father was Rabbi Mayer Samuel Weiss (?-1892) and his mother was Cecilia Steiner (?-1913). In 1878, his family moved to the United States, where he spelled his name as Erich Weiss. At first, they lived in Appleton, Wisconsin, where his father served as rabbi of the Zion Reform Jewish Congregation. On June 6, 1882, Rabbi Weiss became a United States citizen, then after losing his tenure, Mayer moved to New York City with Ehrich in 1887, where they lived in a boarding-house on East Seventy-ninth Street. Mayer later was joined by the rest of the family once he found more permanent housing.

More here.

Wi-Fi Fight Brewing in The Big Easy

Via Red Herring.

Another hurricane season starts in June, but this year it’s a political storm that is threatening to shut down New Orleans’ jury-rigged Wi-Fi service.

After Katrina ravaged the Big Easy six months ago, Greg Meffert, the city’s chief information officer, got downtown businesses back online by opening the city’s wireless mesh network—originally deployed to link surveillance cameras—to anyone who needed it. For free.

“Now it is the lifeblood for so many businesses,” Mr. Meffert told Red Herring. With Internet service still down in more than half the city, he estimates more than 15,000 people use the city’s 512 kbps (kilobits per second) network.

The city now has a daytime population of about a quarter-million, but about a third of the city is still without even basic phone service. The population is expected to swell this summer as more storm refugees return when the school year ends.

More here.

IBM Readies 'Virtual' Worm-Detection

Michael Hickins writes on

IBM is planning to launch a new worm-detection solution on Monday that takes the "honeypot" technique of fighting worms to a new level, has learned.

The project, code-named "Billy Goat", assigns a server a large number of unused and unadvertised addresses, according to a document seen by

More here.

Hype Machine: IPTV Takes Center Stage at TelecomNEXT

Of course, the telecoms are trying to make you forget about the whole 'network neutrality' issue, as well as how much the services that they want to shove down your throat will cost you, but that's beside the point . Buy our wares!

Personally, I think that the cellphone industry's business development practices & expectations are sorely broken -- but of course, time will tell if I'm right, or not.

With regards to TV over IP/DSL (or perhaps other last-mile technologies [e.g. FIOS]), well -- let's just say that the telcos have given themselves enough rope to hang themselves with.

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

At the telecommunications conference here this week, a visitor could be forgiven for thinking he missed a turn and walked into the wrong trade show, a more glamorous one that dealt with entertainment rather than the plain old telephone system.

Every other booth at TelecomNEXT, which ended Thursday, had some demonstration of how phone companies can deliver video programming. A visit by the chief executive of The Walt Disney Co. underlined that for the companies here, the future of "telephone" is spelled "television."

More here.

A Couple of 'Exposed' Advertisers Cut Ties with 180Solutions

Tom Sanders writes on

Three of the advertisers that were listed earlier this week as advertisers on 180solutions adware network have cut their ties with the company.

Altrec, an online store selling outdoor clothing and gear, has "discontinued its experiement with 180solutions indefinitely," the company said in an email to The company stressed that the test had been limited in its scope, with Altrec spending no more than $440.

More here.

Georgia Tech Researchers Developing Hybrid Optical-Wireless Networks


Researchers at the Georgia Institute of Technology are working on a hybrid network that could carry both wired and wireless signals on a single optical fiber. The benefit for enterprise customers would be increased availability of high-speed wired and wireless services – including video, corporate applications and broadband Internet access – at conference centers, airports, hotels, and eventually small offices.

The hybrid network would split into two components the signals being carried on optical fiber into a building. One component would be accessed through standard wall outlets, using a low-cost receiver and optical filter. The other would be picked up by high-speed receivers built into the ceilings of rooms and transmitted wirelessly at between 40- and 60-GHz.

Either way, end users would receive data at rates of up to 2.5Gbps. And the network would be able to take advantage of wave division multiplexing to carry as many as 32 different channels, each delivering 2.5Gbps.

More here.

You're Kidding, Right? $3,600 Luxury Smartphone

Image source: TechEBlog

"No! You canna not havva the mango."

Via TechEBlog.

If your definition of luxury is a stylish $3,600 Smartphone, than get the Mago. Powered by Windows Mobile 2005, this phone boasts a 2.8-inch TFT-LCD touchscreen display (non-scratchable), 802.11b Wi-Fi, USB 2.0 connectivity, Bluetooth and an SD/MMC card slot. It will be released mid-2006.

FTC Slams Spammer in Pocketbook -- Hard

Via The U.S. Federal Trade Commission.

An Internet marketer will pay a $900,000 civil penalty for violating the CAN-SPAM Act, the largest penalty yet for illegal spam, according to the Federal Trade Commission. The company also is permanently prohibited from its unlawful practices, according to a consent decree signed by the company.

According to the FTC, since July 2002, San Francisco-based Jumpstart Technologies LLC, has operated as an Internet marketer, providing direct marketing opportunities for its advertising partners and collecting marketing information to sell to third parties. The FTC’s complaint alleges that in its FreeFlixTix promotion, Jumpstart violated the law by disguising its commercial e-mails as personal messages, and by misleading consumers as to the terms and conditions of the promotion.

More here.

New Takeover Talks Propel CSC

John Moore writes on

Renewed speculation regarding the sale of Computer Sciences Corp., helped propel the company’s stock, which ranked near the top of the gainers column in FCW’s latest Tech Index.

CSC has been the subject of takeover speculation since November 2005, when Lockheed Martin was said to be the suitor. In January, the discussion shifted to name Hewlett-Packard as the interested party. But the rumor mill fired up again this month. Goldman Sachs, in a March statement to investors, noted an uptick in CSC’s share price “on a resurgence in take-over speculation.”

More here.

AACS Devices Won't Require Dedicated Net Connection

Image source: Engadget

Ryan Block writes over on Engadget:

You may not know a device that uses AACS when you see it, but it's the copy-protection method of choice shared by both Blu-ray and HD DVD, and it's been fraught with difficulties and controversy the last couple of months. And apparently it's even come under criticism for requiring a dedicated Internet connection, too -- which is news to us.

Microsoft brought the issue forth in some statements to TG Daily about the rumored connection requirements, and simply called them untrue. Apparently AACS devices, which we understood may sometimes require encryption key updates and firmware upgrades to prevent fair use salacious ripping of content, will make use of customers' "existing network equipment, including Ethernet routers and WiFi transmitters," for managed copy, and won't ever require a net connection for playback.

If true, well, that's just wonderful -- and happens to run totally counter to what we'd heard from official and officious sources to date; but if the spec has indeed changed so drastically and managed copy is really the only thing that would require a connection, and key swaps aren't a problem for AACS devices anymore, then what's their grand countermeasure to prevent AACS from being singularly cracked like CSS, hm?

U.S. Lawmakers Move Ahead on Federal ID Theft Bill

Caron Carlson writes on eWeek:

Lawmakers charged with overseeing business and commerce said they plan to approve legislation the week of March 27 with the hope of pushing a bill through Congress this year.

Leadership in the House Committee on Energy and Commerce said they intend to bring an amended version of the DATA (Data Accountability and Trust Act) to a vote March 29. The original bill was approved by the Subcommittee on Commerce, Trade and Consumer Protection in November.

More here.

Austin's Broadwing Seeks $36M in Stock Sale

Via The Austin Business Journal.

Broadwing Corp. plans to sell 3 million shares of its common stock in a private placement.

Broadwing, based in Austin, hopes to raise $36 million at $12 per share. The company says it will use $34 million of that for general corporate purposes.

More here.

Quote of the Day: John Paczkowski

"Voice over IP is a feature, not a product. That's what we're seeing borne out again and again as the Web's major players rush to add it to their instant messaging programs."

- John Paczkowski, on Good Morning, Silicon Valley (GMSV).

GSA Planning September Networx Transition Summit

Rob Thormeyer writes on

Although the contracts will not be awarded until next spring and summer, the General Services Administration is planning a conference later this year to explore how agencies will transition to GSA’s $20 billion Networx telecommunications vehicles, a key agency official has said.

John Johnson, assistant commissioner for service development and delivery within GSA’s Federal Technology Service, said yesterday that the September “summit” in the Washington area will initiate the dialog between agencies and industry on how to transition from the existing Federal Telecommunications Systems 2001 to the 10-year Networx contracts.

More here.

Four Indicted in Nigerian 419 Scam

Grant Gross writes on InfoWorld:

Four people have been indicted and could face 30 years in prison for a variation on a popular scam in which e-mail senders claim they're trying to transfer money out of Nigeria, the U.S. Department of Justice (DOJ) announced Thursday.

A grand jury in New York City on Wednesday returned a 10-count indictment against three of the defendants and an 11-count indictment against the fourth. Alleged victims of the four individuals lost more than $1.2 million, the DOJ said.

Three of the defendants were arrested in Amsterdam by Dutch authorities on Feb. 21, based on a U.S. criminal complaint. They are being held by the Dutch authorities pending extradition to the U.S., the DOJ said. The fourth defendant, a Nigerian citizen, is a fugitive.

More here.

U.S. Wireless Backhaul Spending Increases

A UPI news snippet, via, reports that:

Investment in backhaul services by U.S. wireless firms is increasing and will likely continue to rise for the foreseeable future, a research report concluded.

The study released this week by Light Reading said operators want to improve the backhaul links between their base stations and core network in order to accommodate new services.

More here.

Denmark Scientists Advance Photonic Technology

A UPI newswire article, via, reports that:

Scientists at Denmark's Aalborg University have created a family of devices for guiding and processing light in chip-based information technology.

Sergey Bozhevolnyi and colleagues say their research will help overcome a main obstacle -- the difficulty of manipulating light at very small scales -- to making "photonic" technology comparable to microelectronics.

More here.

The Internet Buzz About 'Snakes on a Plane'

A Hollywood Reporter article, via CNN, reports that:

As film back-stories go, this one is fairly serpentine.

The Samuel L. Jackson thriller "Snakes on a Plane," which wrapped last September in Vancouver, went back before the cameras this month for five days of additional shooting in Los Angeles.

In this case, it wasn't the usual reshoot, hastily assembled to fix a nagging story problem. Instead, distributor New Line Cinema decided to create new scenes that would take the movie from PG-13 into R-rated territory.

The second round of filming also came about because of intense and growing fan interest in the movie, which is not scheduled to be released until August 18.

More here.

Katrina Funds Earmarked to Pay for Neil Bush's Software Program

Cynthia Leonor Garza writes in The Houston Chronicle:

Former first lady Barbara Bush donated an undisclosed amount of money to the Bush-Clinton Katrina Fund with specific instructions that the money be spent with an educational software company owned by her son Neil.

Since then, the Ignite Learning program has been given to eight area schools that took in substantial numbers of Hurricane Katrina evacuees.

More here.

Apple to Supply 36,000 Laptops to Maine Schools

Brian Robinson writes on

Apple Computer has been awarded a contract to supply 36,000 laptops, along with appropriate applications and services, to Maine’s seventh- and eighth-grade students and their teachers for the 2006-2007 school year as part of the Maine Learning Technology Initiative.

The state began the initiative to familiarize its schoolchildren with the tools and resources they will be using when they move into the workplace. The laptops come with a slate of standard applications such as word processing, spreadsheet, presentation and e-mail, along with multimedia applications that will enable students to create audio-visual presentations.

More here.

F-Secure to Provide Orange Users With Anti-Virus

A UPI news snippet, via, reports that:

F-Secure will provide automatic anti-virus services in Switzerland in conjunction with France Telecom's Orange.

The Helsinki, Finland-based computer software security group said its mobile anti-virus software can be downloaded directly to a user's mobile phone from Orange World, the mobile group's Internet portal to protect against viruses, worms and Trojan horses.

More here.

UK: £10,000 Damages Awarded in Internet Libel Case


A former parliamentary candidate for the UK Independence Party has been awarded £10,000 in damages after winning a defamation case. Michael Keith Smith had sued over postings in an internet chat room.

According to reports, Smith, who put himself forward for the Portsmouth North seat at the last election, was a participant in a discussion on the Iraq war, held on a discussion board run by Yahoo!. Another participant, Tracy Williams, had taken objection to his anti-war comments and, using an alias, had posted a series of defamatory remarks about Mr Smith.

These included calling him a racist and a sex offender, according to reports. Smith sued, obtained court orders enabling him to identify the person behind the remarks, and has now won a defamation action against Williams.

More here.

Verizon to Complete MCI Network Integration in Q3

Jim Duffy writes on NetworkWorld:

Verizon will complete most of the integration of its local and MCI long-distance networks by the third quarter, says the network operations chief of Verizon Business, the renamed MCI.

The carrier is building a "dual rail" ultra long haul network to integrate the backbones of both networks, says Fred Briggs, executive vice president of network operations and technology for Verizon Business. This build will add "several more thousand" route miles to the more than 20,000 route miles of the current backbone network, Briggs said during an interview at the TelecomNext conference.

More here.

British Police Get Palm Print Database

Andy McCue writes on C|Net News:

A new software tool will enable police forces in England and Wales to search a national biometric database of palm prints collected at crime scenes by forensics investigators.

Palm prints, which police claim can account for a fifth of all crime scene marks, have been collected by forensics officers for more than two years, but it is only now that they can be automatically searched for matches against a national database.

More here.

U.S. Attorney Says 'Rizler' Threatened to Kill Witness

Brian McWillaims writes on the Spam Kings blog:

Just when it seemed his case couldn't get any weirder, new charges have been filed against spam king and online drugstore operator Christopher Smith, aka "Rizler."

According to a WCCO-TV report out of Minnesota, Smith was indicted yesterday for threatening to kill a prosecution witness in his upcoming trial over illegally operating an online drug store and other charges.

Seems Smith phoned a friend from Sherburne County Jail earlier this month and allegedly discussed plans to intimidate a witness and even have the witness or his/her family killed, to prevent the witness from testifying against him.

Apparently Smith didn't know the jail was monitoring and recording all calls made by Smith to numbers not linked with his defense attorney.

At his arraignment today, Smith pleaded not guilty.

More here.

Sale of Data by Tax Preparers Draws Protests

Albert B. Crenshaw writes in The Washington Post:

Consumer groups and privacy advocates are attacking proposed Internal Revenue Service rules that would spell out how tax-return preparers may legally sell financial information and other data from their clients' returns.

It has long been a principle of tax administration that no unauthorized person can get such information and that this assurance encourages taxpayers to file honest and complete returns. That notion is still a "fundamental underpinning" of IRS practice, Commissioner Mark W. Everson said yesterday in an interview.

The proposal, issued in December, was billed by the IRS as improving privacy protections for taxpayers, detailing the steps for getting permission to use the information. But it has focused attention on a little-known fact: Although law forbids the unauthorized disclosure of taxpayer information, return-preparers have long been allowed to disclose it, even sell it, if they obtain their clients' permission. Once the information goes out the door, taxpayers have little control over what happens to it.

More here.

UK: Pipex Buys Homecall's Fixed-Line Phone Business

Tim Richardson writes on The Register:

Pipex has bought fixed line business Homecall from telecoms tycoon John Caudwell adding more than 500,000 phone punters to its existing customer base.

Coupled with its existing broadband, voice and hosting business Pipex now has more than a million punters giving it ample opportunity to sell multiple services to its expanding customer base.

More here.

New York Sues Company in E-Mail Sale Case

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

A company accused of selling e-mails, in what may be the biggest deliberate breach of Internet privacy ever, has been sued by New York Attorney General Eliot Spitzer.

Spitzer on Thursday accused Gratis Internet of selling personal information obtained from millions of consumers despite a promise of confidentiality. The consumers thought they were participating in a general marketing survey and often received free i-Pods music players or DVD movies and video games.

The civil suit was filed in state Supreme Court in Manhattan.

More here.

Philippine Activists Stage 'Virtual Sit-In'

A cursory search on the web for "philippine human rights" did not immediatly reveal the web site mentioned in the article.

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

Computer-savvy Philippine protesters took civil disobedience to cyberspace Thursday, launching a "virtual sit-in" campaign that urged online activists to overwhelm the police Web site with numerous hits.

Protesting alleged human rights abuses, activists calling themselves "Electronic Brigade" opened a Web site that directs visitors to the main national police site.

More here.

Verizon Complains to FCC Over Cablevision's Negotiating Tactics

Spencer Ante writes on Businessweek Online:

Alexis Johnson is a frustrated foot soldier in an escalating broadband war. Johnson is a director of TV programming at Verizon Communications, and it's his job to line up content for the network his company is building to bring TV programming to phone customers across the country. Just over a year ago, Johnson began negotiating with Rainbow Media Holdings to get access to Rainbow's three regional sports networks, including Fox Sports New York.

It was a critical deal. Rainbow is a subsidiary of Cablevision Systems, which owns and operates the Fox Sports New York and MSG Network and maintains a 50% stake of Fox Sports New England. These networks own the rights to produce and broadcast many of the New York region's top sports teams, including the New York Rangers, the New York Knicks, the New Jersey Devils, and MetroStars, among other teams. Verizon is spending billions of dollars on a fiber-optic network that covers most of the northeastern U.S. seaboard and wants to make sure its customers can choose from a full array of channels.

Johnson strove to clinch an agreement, exchanging calls with Julian Tompkins, a director at Rainbow, over a several-month period starting in February, 2005, according to a Verizon filing with the Federal Communications Commission. But Tompkins never offered Verizon a specific deal, Verizon says.

More here.

User Friendly: Anything That Becomes Popular, Instantly Sucks


Click for larger image.

Microsoft Confirms 'Highly Critical' IE Hole

Ryan Naraine writes on eWeek:

Microsoft plans to release a pre-patch advisory with workarounds for a "highly critical" vulnerability that could put millions of Internet Explorer users at the mercy of malicious hackers.

The advisory, which will be posted here, acknowledges a code execution hole that was discovered and publicly reported by Secunia Research of Copenhagen, Denmark.

More here.

Approval of Netflix Settlement Is Delayed

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

A judge on Wednesday delayed approval of a proposed class-action settlement that would require Netflix Inc. to offer a free month of DVD rentals to resolve a lawsuit that prompted the popular online service to acknowledge it gives preferential treatment to its most profitable customers.

San Francisco Superior Court Judge Thomas Mellon Jr. indicated he needed more time to figure out how much he will reduce the fees of two San Francisco lawyers representing the interests of 5.5 million current and former Netflix subscribers.

More here.

South Africa's MTN to Launch Cellphone Network in Iran

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

South Africa's MTN, the continent's largest cellphone firm, said it would launch a second network in Iran in August, reaching 31 million subscribers by 2015.

MTN holds 49 percent of IranCell with a total investment of 450 million euros (543 million dollars).

Only 11 percent of Iran's 69 million people have cellphones, MTN said, adding that it was hoping to expand that reach to 40 percent of Iranians -- or 31 million customers -- by 2015.

More here.

Schneier: 'Let Computers Screen Air Baggage'

Bruce Schneier writes over on Wired News:

It seems like every time someone tests airport security, airport security fails. In tests between November 2001 and February 2002, screeners missed 70 percent of knives, 30 percent of guns and 60 percent of (fake) bombs. And recently, testers were able to smuggle bomb-making parts through airport security in 21 of 21 attempts. It makes you wonder why we're all putting our laptops in a separate bin and taking off our shoes. (Although we should all be glad that Richard Reid wasn't the "underwear bomber.")

The failure to detect bomb-making parts is easier to understand. Break up something into small enough parts, and it's going to slip past the screeners pretty easily. The explosive material won't show up on the metal detector, and the associated electronics can look benign when disassembled. This isn't even a new problem. It's widely believed that the Chechen women who blew up the two Russian planes in August 2004 probably smuggled their bombs aboard the planes in pieces.

But guns and knives? That surprises most people.

More here.

Gapingvoid: Married on The Internet

Via Enjoy!

Security of U.S. Medicare Privacy Info Questioned

Julie Appleby writes in USA Today:

Medical and financial information gathered on millions of Americans by Medicare, Medicaid and other government programs is vulnerable to thieves or pranksters because of inadequate computer security, federal investigators say.

"Significant weaknesses in information security controls" increase the risk from those who would "inadvertently or deliberately disclose, modify or destroy" sensitive data, the U.S. Government Accountability Office says.

More here.

ATM Theft Investigators Eye Software Flaw

Bob Sullivan writes on MSNBC:

U.S. retailers are being warned that software they use at checkout counters may store too much customer information — including customer debit card PIN numbers that are supposed to be immediately erased or encrypted.

And to make matters worse, researchers believe that hackers can sometimes pluck the valuable data right out of thin air, thanks to insecure wireless networks at some stores.

The warning comes as investigators try to find the origin of a data leak that has led to thousand of thefts from consumer bank accounts through fraudulent ATM withdrawals from as far away as Russia.

More here.

Wednesday, March 22, 2006

23 March 1912: Happy Birthday, Wernher von Braun


Wernher von Braun stands at his desk in the Marshall Space Flight Center,
Huntsville, Alabama in May 1964, with models of rockets developed and in progress.

Image source: Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia.

Wernher Magnus Maximilian Freiherr von Braun (March 23, 1912 – June 16, 1977) was one of the leading figures in the development of rocket technology in Germany and the United States.

Originally a German scientist who led Germany's rocket development program before and during World War II, he entered the United States at the end of the war through the then-secret Operation Paperclip.

He became a naturalized U.S. citizen and worked on the American ICBM program before joining NASA, where he served as Director. He is generally regarded as the father of the United States space program.

More here.

Gapingvoid: The Future Belongs to The Geeks

Via Enjoy!

PayPal Plans Payments Via Text Message?

An AP newswire article, via MSNBC, reports that:

PayPal, the online payment service owned by eBay Inc., has begun testing a new offering to allow people to make and receive payments using cell phones and other mobile devices.

PayPal Mobile is being tested by an unspecified number of eBay employees and will be available to the public in the United States, Canada and the United Kingdom in the next few weeks, eBay spokeswoman Amanda Pires said.

More here.

Sun Grid Hit by Network Denial of Service Attack

Stephen Shankland writes on C|Net News:

Sun Microsystems' Grid, a publicly available computing service, was hit by a denial-of-service network attack on its inaugural day, the company said Wednesday.

To let people try out the Sun Grid, the company made a text-to-speech translation service publicly accessible for, for example, turning blog entries into podcasts. "It became the focus of a denial of service attack," said Aisling MacRunnels, Sun's senior director of utility computing said in an interview Wednesday.

More here.

Pentagon 'Stays the Course' with Airborne Laser Weapon

The Boeing-led Airborne Laser team exposes the Airborne Laser's conformal
window during a test flight. Such an exposure is necessary for the weapon system
to complete its mission of shooting down a ballistic missile during the boost phase of flight.

Image source: MSNBC / Jim Shryne / USAF

Jeremey Singer writes on

The threat of cancellation no longer looms over the Pentagon's Airborne Laser (ABL) effort, but senior program officials say they are taking nothing for granted as they prepare for a missile-intercept demonstration in 2008.

Several clear test milestones have been laid out for the ABL in 2006 so that senior Missile Defense Agency (MDA) officials will be able to measure its progress, according to Air Force Col. John Daniels, the ABL's program director.

The ABL is a Boeing 747 aircraft being equipped with a high-powered chemical laser to destroy ballistic missiles in their boost phase. Boeing Co. of Chicago is the prime contactor on the effort.

More here.

Desperate to Get to SXSW, Woman Stows Away on Jet

Steven Kreytak writes in The Austin American-Statesman:

The 50-passenger Embraer 145 jet making the two-hour flight from St. Louis to Austin had just three seats per row and one tiny bathroom, which is where Catherine "Cat" Chow hid Saturday as the plane took off, desperate, she explained later to police, to get to the South by Southwest Music Festival.

Now the 33-year-old Chicago artist and clothing designer is in the Travis County Jail facing federal charges of stowing away on the flight.

Chow had been on the standby list for the flight, booked through American Airlines, but when she learned it was full, Chow snuck past the gate agents at the St. Louis airport and boarded, according to court documents.

More here.

Dell to Buy High-End PC Maker Alienware

An AP newswire article by John Pain, via ABC News, reports that:

Dell Inc., the world's largest computer maker, said Wednesday it would buy Alienware Corp., whose high-ends PCs are widely acclaimed by video gamers for their fast performance and sleek, UFO-themed looks.

Dell, based in Round Rock, Texas, didn't announce terms of the deal, which will help expand its offerings for the lucrative gaming and multimedia market. Dell said Alienware would operate as a wholly owned subsidiary and will keep its brand name and its own product development, marketing, sales, technical support and other operations.

More here.

Spamware Vendor Integrates Anti-Spam Service

Image source: Spam Kings

Brian McWilliams writes on the Spam Kings blog:

Send-Safe, a notorious developer of spamming software, has updated its program to include a remove-list feature from the controversial Blue Security anti-spam service.

The latest build (803) of the Send-Safe Mailer v2.20b includes an option designed to prevent spammers from sending messages to any of the 245,000-plus e-mail addresses registered with the Blue Security "Do Not Intrude" registry.

More here.

Earthlink to Unwire Milpitas

Om Malik writes on his Next Generation blog:

Unwired cities movement continues - Earthlink says it is going to unwire the City of Milpitas. The Wi-Fi mesh network will cover about 6.5 square miles, and will basically be like most other muni networks. While businesses and consumers will pay some amount of money to access the network, the City employees will also be able to access the network.

Not sure who is providing the gear, but given the past record of Earthlink deployments, it must be Tropos Networks. As part of the deal, other access providers can use the network as well.