Saturday, April 01, 2006

2 April 1973: LexisNexis Publicly Launches


Via Wikipedia.

Anglo/Dutch publishing giant Reed Elsevier currently owns LexisNexis. At its inception in 1970, the database was christened LEXIS by Mead Data Central[MDC], a subsidiary of the Mead Corporation. It was a continuation of an experiment organized by the Ohio State Bar in 1967. On April 2, 1973, LEXIS launched publicly, offering full-text searching of all Ohio and New York cases. In 1980, LEXIS completed its hand-keyed electronic archive of all U.S. federal and state cases, a monumental achievement. The NEXIS service, added that same year, gave journalists a searchable database of news articles. (Notice the caps; it was then standard to capitalize online services.)

LexisNexis (sometimes simply called "Lexis" among users) is a popular searchable archive of content from newspapers, magazines, legal documents and other printed sources. Its primary customers are lawyers, journalists, and academics; its slogan is "It's how you know."

LexisNexis' chief competitor in the legal market is Westlaw. Because West and LexisNexis are so pervasive in the legal research marketplace, some customers have jokingly imagined an organization called Wexis.

In 1975, West Publishing Company developed Westlaw. The service was launched in 1975 with headline-only searches but offered true full-text searching in December of 1976. Westlaw is currently NexisLexis's industry rival.

In 1994, Mead Corp divested itself of MDC to return to its core competency of office supply manufacture. Reed Elsevier, PLC, in December of that year, acquired MDC, known as LexisNexis thereafter. During the handover, LexisNexis's website, the LexisNexis Communication Center, went online.

More here.

Hardcore Islam

Brian McWilliams writes on the Spam Kings blog:

April Fool's Day brings us a tacky spam apparently designed to ignite Muslim anger rather than humor. The message, sent late Friday night to a variety of Islamic groups, announces the upcoming release of "four Muslim themed adult films." A PDF attachment to the fake press release depicts what are described as "video covers & posters" used for promotion of the allegedly pornographic movies.

While the 'Yaa Allah" message may produce a chuckle from some western, non-Muslim readers, that's apparently not who was targeted by the email. Seems likely this is an effort to whip up a reaction similar to last September's furor over the Mohammed cartoons.

More here.

Internet Injects Sweeping Change Into U.S. Politics

Adam Nagourney writes in The New York Times:

The transformation of American politics by the Internet is accelerating with the approach of the 2006 Congressional and 2008 White House elections, producing far-reaching changes in the way campaigns approach advertising, fund-raising, mobilizing supporters and even the spreading of negative information.

Democrats and Republicans are sharply increasing their use of e-mail, interactive Web sites, candidate and party blogs, and text-messaging to raise money, organize get-out-the-vote efforts and assemble crowds for rallies. The Internet, they said, appears to be far more efficient, and less costly, than the traditional tools of politics, notably door knocking and telephone banks.

More here.

Winchester XXX-Magnum Zombie-Killing Shotgun Shells Flying Off Shelves

Via Gizombo!

As the rest of the world begins to awaken to the hordes of undead walking the streets, sales of 12-gauge shotgun shells have become a high-demand commodity. Milk and bread sales have slumped as terror-stricken citizens clamor for 1300fps ammo to destroy the brain-stems of our new zombie overlords.

While some manufacturers are scrambling for silver plated ammunition (which, by the way, only works on werewolves) Winchester has just released XXX-Magnum line with built in RFID technology so zombie hunters around the world can keep track of their kills without spending valuable time to write it down.

Daylight Savings Time Change is Money for Indiana Teen

An AP newswire article, via CNN, reports that:

An industrious teenager is hoping time is money.

Eighteen-year-old Evan Kelso is offering to change every digital clock in a customer's home or car after all of Indiana goes to daylight saving time this weekend for the first time in more than 30 years. His fee: $10.

Kelso, a senior at Bishop Luers High School, said he came up with the idea as Indiana lawmakers sniped about time zones and daylight-saving time. He said he and his father are always trying to think up new ways to make a little extra cash.

More here.

Bush Prepares for Historic Third Term

Thomas C. Green writes on The Register:

The US Department of Justice (DoJ) and the office of the White House Counsel are preparing a draft document laying out the President's wartime authority to remain in office past 2008, The Register has learned.

The scheme is described as an emergency "continuity presidency," made necessary by the extraordinary circumstances and unique challenges of protecting the United States from the threat of international terrorism.

"The world changed on 9/11," a confidential DoJ memo obtained by The Register explains, "and no Administration is US history is better suited to adapt productively to those changes than this one.

More here.

Google to Advertise on The Moon

Arif Pollo writes on

In the most wide-scale advertising attempt ever known, Google plans to brand its logo into the surface of the moon so that it is visible from Earth.

The search giant will pay the US government an estimated $1bn for the rights to the lunar land.

"You've heard of Google Mars and Google Earth, where we show you maps of those planets? Well this is Google Moon, where we become the world's biggest brand," said an unnamed source at the company.

More here.

XO Holdings Calls Off Deal To Sell Wireline Business

Ellen McCarthy writes in The Washington Post:

XO Holdings Inc., a Reston telecom firm controlled by financier Carl C. Icahn, called off a deal to sell its phone and Internet business to another of Icahn's companies after several shareholder lawsuits delayed the deal.

XO said yesterday that the agreement to sell its wireline business to Icahn-owned Elk Associates was mutually terminated on Thursday. The deal, announced in November, would have been worth $700 million, a figure some shareholders said was too low.

Three lawsuits were brought by shareholders in response to the proposed acquisition. The agreement contained a clause allowing either party to back out of the deal if it did not close by July 3. Earlier this week, Elk told XO's board that it expected the shareholder suits would delay the deal beyond that date.

More here.

Verizon Fined by District for Chalk-on-Sidewalk Advertising

Wow -- this sounds like an April Fool's joke, but I think it's for real.

Arshad Mohammed writes in The Washington Post:

The District [of Columbia] said yesterday that it fined Verizon Communications Inc. $1,050 for stenciling orange-red chalk ads on sidewalks across the city to promote its Yellow Pages.

Verizon, the nation's second-largest phone company, thought it had found a nifty way to get consumers' attention when it began spraying about 135 chalk advertisements around the city on Sunday.

"Looking for Something? Find it in the . . . Verizon Yellow Pages," read the roughly 2-by-3-foot ads that turned up on heavily trafficked sidewalks, including in Northwest near the Woodley Park-Zoo/Adams Morgan Metro stop and on K Street downtown.

More here.

Friday, March 31, 2006

1 April 1976: Happy Birthday, Apple Computer


Via Wikipedia.

The rise of Apple Computer is one of America's great success stories. Based on the business and technical savvy of Steve Jobs and Steve Wozniak, and the marketing expertise of Mike Markkula, Apple dominated the personal computer industry from 1977 to 1983.

Jobs and Wozniak, ("the two Steves") had been friends since 1972. Jobs managed to interest Wozniak in assembling a personal computer and selling it. Jobs approached a local computer store, The Byte Shop, who, after Jobs' famous persuasion, ordered fifty units and paid $500 for each unit. Jobs then ordered components from Cramer Electronics, a national electronic parts distributor. Using a variety of methods, including borrowing space from friends and family and selling various items including a Volkswagen Type 2 bus, Jobs managed to secure the parts needed while Wozniak and another friend, Ronald Wayne, assembled the Apple I.

Apple Computer was thus founded in Los Altos, California on April 1, 1976 by Steve Jobs, Steve Wozniak and Ronald Wayne, to sell the Apple I personal computer kit at $666.66. They were hand-built in Jobs' parents' garage, and the Apple I was first shown to the public at the Homebrew Computer Club.

The Apple I was delivered in June, and paid for on delivery. Eventually 200 Apple I computers were built.

Note that the original Apple I was simply a motherboard, it was not a full computer as we know it today.

Much more here.

Hacker Hits State of Georgia Database via Hole in Security Software

Jaikumar Vijayan writes on ComputerWorld:

An unpatched flaw in a “widely used security program” was exploited by an unknown hacker to gain access to a Georgia Technology Authority (GTA) database containing confidential information on more than 570,000 members of the state’s pension plans.

The intrusion occurred sometime between Feb. 21 and Feb. 23 and involved a hacker who used “sophisticated hacking tools” to break through several layers of security after accessing the server hosting the database via the software flaw, said Joyce Goldberg, a GTA spokeswoman.

Goldberg refused to name the security vendor whose software was exploited, citing an ongoing investigation. She added, however, that the vulnerability exploited by the hacker had already been publicly disclosed by the vendor.

More here.

EFF Motion in AT&T Surveillance Case Draws Government's Eye

Via The EFF.

The Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) filed a motion for a preliminary injunction in its class-action lawsuit against AT&T today.

However, much of the evidence that was to be included in the motion--as well as the legal arguments based on that evidence--was held back temporarily at the request of the Department of Justice (DOJ).

More here.

AT&T, BellSouth Seek U.S. Approval on Wireless Deal

An AP newswire article by Harry R. Weber, via Yahoo! News, reports that:

Allowing the parent companies of Cingular Wireless LLC to merge will help eliminate challenges they now face in managing the nation's largest cell phone provider, AT&T Inc. and BellSouth Corp. said in papers filed with the government Friday.

The two companies formally asked the Justice Department and Federal Communications Commission for approval of their $67 billion deal, which was announced March 5.

Approval requests also were being filed in the states where they do business, and shareholders, too, will have to give their nod to AT&T's planned purchase of BellSouth.

More here.

The Future of Neon: The Flexible LED

Image source: OhGizmo!

Andrew Liszewski writes on OhGizmo!:

Called LED-FLEX this neon-substitute uses LED technology housed in a flexible tube along with ‘proprietary techniques’ to achieve the appearance and most importantly the brightness of traditional neon lighting.

Unlike neon lighting though, the LED-FLEX units are completely sealed and impervious to shock, vibration and can be used in wet or ‘extreme’ conditions. They’re also up to 70% more energy-efficient than neon and run cool enough for human interaction. The biggest advantage of course is that since they’re flexible they can be easily implemented in unique locations and designs that would be difficult to impossible for glass tubing.

For now the LED-FLEX comes in a slightly limited color palette of red, green, blue and yellow but odds are that will expand as LED technology itself improves.

More here.

NARA Looks to Recover Data From Hurricane-Damaged Computers

Rob Thormeyer writes on

The National Archives and Records Administration wants to hire someone to help restore and recover data from computers that were damaged during Hurricane Katrina.

In a recent solicitation, NARA said the winner of the firm, fixed-price contract will recover data from 40 computers in New Orleans—six from the Orleans Parish Coroner’s Office and 34 from the District Attorney’s Office.

The computers have been exposed to flood waters, mold, mud and, possibly, sewage or petrochemicals, NARA said.

NARA is requesting quotes for the one-year contract, the notice said, and vendors must respond by April 11.

More here.

'Porn-Dialing' Firm Loses Appeal

Declan McCullagh writes on C|Net News:

When an unsuspecting Internet user visited certain Web sites providing "adult entertainment services," they were presented with the opportunity to download and execute a program that would download pornography. This practice is sometimes called a drive-by download.

Once executed, the dialer program worked by telephoning a Madagascar telephone number if a modem was attached to the computer. (The program did include a terms of service agreement that disclosed the cost of the porn was an international phone call, but it's not clear that people were reading the fine print.)

The hapless Internet user got some titillation when the modem connection was made--and a different kind of excitement when a hefty $3.99-a-minute phone bill from AT&T arrived afterward. An average bill was about $250. It warned that "nonpayment of toll charges may result in disconnection of local service."

More here.

Internet Archive's Legality Debated in Copyright Suit

An AP newswire article by Joe Mandak, via The Mercury News, reports that:

An ongoing lawsuit between a company and a popular archive of Web pages raises questions about whether the archive unavoidably violates copyright laws while providing a valuable service, according to attorneys and an independent law expert.

The San Francisco-based nonprofit Internet Archive was created in 1996 to preserve Web pages that will eventually be deleted or changed. More than 55 billion pages are stored there.

A health care company claims the archive didn't do enough to protect copyrighted information that helped a competing firm win a trademark suit.

The archive "is just like a big vacuum cleaner, sucking up information and making it available" to anyone with a Web browser, said Scott S. Christie, an attorney representing Healthcare Advocates Inc.

More here.

Nortel, Qualcomm Claim '3.5G' Speed Record

Now we're talkin'...

Marguerite Reardon writes on C|Net News:

Telecommunications equipment maker Nortel Networks and wireless chip manufacturer Qualcomm announced Friday that they have set a new download speed record using so-called 3.5G wireless technology.

The companies say they have achieved downloads of 7.2mbps (megabits per second) based on the UMTS-HSDPA (Universal Mobile Telephone System - High Speed Downlink Packet Access) standard. The companies will show off the high-speed capability during a demonstration at the CTIA Wireless 2006 trade show in Las Vegas next week.

More here.

Wireless is Losing the Universal-Service Battle

Heather Forsgren Weaver writes on RCR Wireless News:

Cutting wireless out of the universal-service system seems to be gaining traction with the introduction of legislation in the House of Representatives that would make it much more difficult for mobile-phone carriers to qualify for universal-service support. Further, the chairman of the Federal Communications Commission said the universal-service fund should not be used to create artificial competition.

Reps. Lee Terry (R-Neb.) and Rick Boucher (D-Va.) finally introduced their Universal Service Reform Act of 2006 after releasing a draft of the bill last year. The draft included provisions that hurt wireless, and the revamped version of the legislation does not improve wireless’ situation.

More here.

EarthLink Rumored to Take Over New Orleans’ Wi-Fi

Joni Morse writes on RCR Wireless News:

The Big Easy’s municipal Wi-Fi network may go private to sidestep growing legal pressures from BellSouth Corp. and the Louisiana state government.

Though the company and the city have not confirmed the reports, EarthLink Inc. is rumored to be in talks with New Orleans city officials to take over and expand the city’s Wi-Fi network.

More here.

EFF to Appeal Apple Trade Secret Case

Nate Mook writes on BetaNews:

The Electronic Frontier Foundation is heading back into the courtroom on April 20 to appeal a ruling last year that could have far reaching consequences for bloggers and journalists. In that decision, Santa Clara County Superior Court Judge James Kleinberg's said that journalists and their ISPs can be obligated to identify confidential sources.

The case stemmed from a "John Doe" lawsuit filed by Apple against Web sites, including Jason O'Grady's PowerPage, which provoked Apple after it disclosed the company's designs for a FireWire-based interface for GarageBand code-named "Asteroid." Apple was given permission to subpoena both O'Grady and other rumor site AppleInsider.

More here.

IRS's Inadequate Security Puts Taxpayer Data at Risk


This month, Spotlight surveys the Internal Revenue Service amid recent questions concerning its information-sharing regulations and security systems. Government reports have found that the agency has poor physical and electronic security, and it has had considerable trouble with its contractors improperly accessing and collecting sensitive taxpayer data.

In one case, an IRS contractor spent several months collecting political party affiliation data on taxpayers in 20 states, in violation of the law.

More here.

Microsoft Claims Breakthrough in EU Fines Hearing

Sabina Zawadzki and Darren Ennis write for Reuters:

Microsoft's top lawyer said on Friday there had been a breakthrough in the U.S. software company's dispute with the European Commission at a hearing into antitrust fines ordered by Brussels.

"As I said in the hearing, I believe that we have had a breakthrough," Brad Smith told reporters at the end of the two-day hearing into the Commission's plan to start fining Microsoft 2 million euros ($2.4 million) a day.

The EU's executive, which accuses Microsoft of blocking competition by witholding information on its business software, said it would take its time before deciding whether to proceed with the fines.

More here.

Google Searches for TV Guy

Mark Sullivan writes on Light Reading:

An ad at the Google Website suggests that the search giant is ready to extend its search and advertising services into the world of television.

Google wants to hire a "Product Manager – Interactive TV." That product manager’s job will be to "identify areas where use of Google’s search and advertising technology can enhance this user experience and define appropriate products to deliver these user benefits," the ad reads.

More here.

Australia: Privacy Breach at Astratel

Andrew Colley writes on Australian IT:

A security hole in Sydney internet provider Astratel's LiveBilling online account management system has seriously compromised its customers' privacy.

Astratel customer Nick Adams notified the ISP after he discovered that he could view billing information and call records for other customers, by lodging their phone number into an online query form.

Mr Adams also demonstrated that non-Astratel member could access the compromised web query service by transplanting code from the page where it was located and placing it at an alternative web address.

"There's no security moving between the pure members section and this LiveBilling part of the web site. You can put anyone's phone number and you pull their call records and their account balance," Mr Adams said.

The link to the compromised billing service was still accessible until late today.

More here.

Toon: Border Security and Immigration

Click for larger image.

The Netherlands: State to Give Dutch Citizens Personal Websites

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

Dutch citizens will get a personalized Internet page giving them access to their records at public institutions and reminding them when to renew important documents, the government said on Friday.

The aim is to let citizens and companies, which will also get pages, access their data at any time, and eventually reduce administrative costs.

A trial Personal Internet Page (PIP) project will start later this year. Between 10 and 15 government organizations will participate, giving citizens on-line access to their tax information, grants, licences and social security data.

More here.

Senate Panel Approves Phone-Records Privacy Bill

Grant Gross writes on InfoWorld:

A U.S. Senate committee on Thursday approved a bill that would outlaw the practice of posing as a telephone or mobile phone customer to obtain phone records.

The practice, called pretexting, is allegedly used by a number of online companies that sell phone records. The Senate Commerce, Science and Transportation Committee's bill makes it illegal to acquire, use or sell a person’s confidential phone records without that person’s written consent.

More here.

UK: Ofcom Starts Radio Spectrum Sale

Via The BBC.

A 40 megahertz range of the airwaves will be sold next year, for use in wireless and mobile communications.

Radio spectrum plays a vital role in broadcast media and telecommunications, as well as being essential to emergency services and air traffic control.

Regulator Ofcom said the frequencies could be used for mobile multimedia services, broadband wireless internet access or satellite digital radio.

It said a number of organisations had already expressed an interest.

More here.

Defense Tech: 'A Mushroom Cloud Over Las Vegas...'

Haninah Levine writes on Defense Tech: what will almost, but apparently not quite, be seen on June 2. According to the Defense Threat Reduction Agency , the dust cloud from Divine Strake, a massive conventional explosion scheduled to take place at the Nevada Test Site this summer, "may reach an altitude of 10,000 feet (3,048 meters) [but] is not expected to be visible off the Nevada Test Site."

The open-air test will ignite 700 tons of ammonium nitrate/fuel oil, good for 593 tons of high-explosives equivalent, according to the Washington Post . The Associated Press describes the test as the largest-ever open-air chemical explosion at the Nevada site – by a factor of forty. Due to the size of the blast – and its sensitive location at the home of the United States' erstwhile nuclear test program – DTRA has taken the trouble to warn the Russians ahead of time of the upcoming test.

More here.

Hidden Cost of Illegal Immigration: ID Theft

Bob Sullivan writes in The Red Tape Chronicles:

In the noisy immigration debate raging in Washington, there is one voice NOT being heard.

The voice of identity theft victims.

Behind many of the nation’s millions of undocumented workers are someone else's documents. To get a job, illegal immigrants need a Social Security number, and they often borrow one. As victim Melody Millet is fond of saying, U.S. citizens are being forced to share their identities with undocumented immigrants to give corporate America a steady supply of cheap labor.

Thousands, perhaps hundreds of thousands of Americans are right now sharing their identities with immigrants and don't know it. It is the dirty little secret of the immigration issue: By not dealing directly with the undocumented worker situation, the U.S government is actually encouraging identity theft. In fact, one can argue that the origins of the identity theft epidemic can be traced to the immigration issue.

More here.

NASA HQ Raided In Kiddie Porn Probe

Via The Smoking Gun.

The Washington headquarters of NASA was raided this week as part of a kiddie porn probe targeting an executive with the space agency, The Smoking Gun has learned.

On Wednesday morning, federal investigators seized a laptop computer, a hard drive, CDs, and other material from the office of James Robinson, who was present when agents with NASA's inspector general executed a search warrant at his E Street office.

According to an affidavit filed in U.S. District Court, Robinson, 42, used his office computer (and another in his Virginia home) to trade and examine illegal image and videos.

More here.

L.A. County Warns 94,000 Of Possible ID Theft

An AP/CBS News article, via CBS News, reports that:

County officials have sent 94,000 letters warning people of possible identity theft after documents containing their confidential information were publicly exposed in January.

The documents were left next to a recycling bin in a parking garage outside a Department of Public Social Services office in Exposition Park. The documents contained names, addresses, phone numbers, Social Security numbers and medical information of people who received services from the office in the last two to three years, said department spokeswoman Shirley Christensen.

There have been no reports of identity theft from any of the 2.2 million people who use the department's service, Christensen said.

More here.

User Friendly: The Startbucks Syndrome


Click for larger image.

AG Gonzalez Shows Up at School To Scare Kids About File-Sharing

United States Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales high-fives with
Windmill Springs School second grader Luis Fajardo-Galindo.

Image source: Susanna Frohman / Mercury News

Mike Langberg writes in The Mercury News:

"I am the top cop in the United States," declared U.S. Attorney General Alberto R. Gonzales in explaining his job Thursday afternoon to an audience of 80 seventh- and eighth-graders at Windmill Springs School in San Jose.

The nation's No. 1 law enforcement officer was in town to help convince students that intellectual property -- especially video games, music and movies -- deserves the same kind of respect and protection as any other kind of property.

Downloading a song for free from a file-sharing Web site, Gonzales declared, "is just like stealing blue jeans or copying off a neighbor's (school) paper."

More here.

Ben Edelman: Critiquing ITSA's Pro-Adware Policy

Guru of everything syware & adware, Ben Edelman writes over on his blog:

These days, few advertisers defend "adware" advertising. It seems the world has largely noticed: Consumers hate adware-delivered popup ads. It's rare that any consumer intentionally installs adware with an accurate understanding of what lies ahead. Since consumers don't want adware, adware vendors get onto users' computers by trickery and deception, without appropriate disclosures and informed consent. Problems plague even those vendors that claim to have reformed. (Recall Claria soliciting installations through other vendors nonconsensually-installed spyware and removing important phrases from its disclosures.)

Despite the rising backlash against adware, the Interactive Travel Services Association recently offered a rare contrary view. In its Statement Regarding the Use of Marketing Software Applications, ITSA gave adware an effective endorsement.

ITSA claimed adware "can be useful to many consumers because it provides timely, relevant and money-saving information." Despite the bad consumer experience and lousy value proposition, ITSA goes on to say adware advertising is just fine, under strikingly vague and weak conditions.

My challenge to ITSA executives: Install Direct Revenue "adware" on your PCs for a month. Then report how much time and money you save.

Hell yes!

More here.

Silicon Labs Completes Downtown Austin Deal

Via The Austin Business Journal.

Silicon Laboratories Inc. has finalized details of a deal to take space in a downtown Austin office building.

The property is located at 400 W. Cesar Chavez and is known as one of two Computer Sciences Corp. buildings. The Austin chip designer will lease the space for 7 years and has the option to buy the 221,000-square-foot building. Roughly 175,000 square of the building is office space spread out on 5 floors. Silicon Labs will use four of the five floors, while the ground floor will continue to be dedicated to retail space and a lobby.

The deal means approximately 400 of the company's employees, including our product development groups and sales organization as well as most of the executive team, will move downtown during third quarter of 2006.

More here.

Gapingvoid: Two Wee Men

Via Enjoy!

More Subpoenas in Suit Over Obscenity Law

Saul Hansell writes in The New York Times:

Both the Justice Department and the American Civil Liberties Union confirmed yesterday that they had requested and received information from Internet service providers and software makers in connection with an A.C.L.U. lawsuit challenging an anti-pornography law.

Earlier this year it was revealed that the Justice Department, which is defending the law, had subpoenaed information from four search engine companies about keyword requests by users. Google challenged its subpoena. This month a judge ordered the company to provide some information to the Justice Department but not information on individual searches, saying that had the potential to violate the privacy of users.

More here.

A 'Burning' Need for More Porn

Regina Lynn writes in Wired News:

If you could buy a porn video, download it in about an hour and burn it to a DVD that will play in any standard drive, would you do it? What if it had built-in digital rights management (DRM) code that only let you burn the file to disk one time, and one time only?

Vivid, arguably the most tech-savvy of the big adult entertainment studios, is launching a new Burn to DVD service on April 3 with the expectation that you, and millions like you, will.

More here.

Washington Website Owner Wins Free Speech Case

An AP newswire article by Donna Gordon Blankenship, via Yahoo! News, reports that:

The state Supreme Court ruled Thursday a trial judge overreached his authority when he restricted a man from posting information on a Web site.

Paul Trummel was jailed for more than three months in 2002 in his free-speech standoff with the judge over the Web site he used as a forum for attacking the Council House, a federally subsidized retirement home where he once lived.

Trummel posted the phone numbers and addresses of Council House staff, directors and residents — something that King County Superior Court Judge James Doerty characterized as harassment.

More here.

Yahoo! Threatened With Court Action Over Jailed Chinese Journalist

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

Internet firm Yahoo may face legal action for allegedly providing information which allowed a Chinese journalist to be jailed for 10 years for leaking state secrets.

Zhang Yu, representing the family of Shi Tao, said they were considering taking Yahoo Hong Kong Holdings to court either here or in the United States.

"We believe what (Yahoo) did was illegal so we are considering taking Yahoo to court," Zhang told reporters Friday, adding that Yahoo had refused to discuss the matter with him.

Shi, 37, was sentenced in April last year after posting on the Internet a government order barring Chinese media from marking the 15th anniversary of the brutal Tiananmen Square crackdown on democracy activists.

More here.

Thursday, March 30, 2006

31 March 1951: First UNIVAC Delivered


UNIVAC I Central Complex, containing the central processor and main memory unit.
Image source: Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia.

The UNIVAC I (UNIVersal Automatic Computer I) was the first commercial computer made in the United States. It was designed by J. Presper Eckert and John Mauchly, the men behind the second American electronic computer, the ENIAC. In the years before successor models of the UNIVAC I appeared, the machine was simply known as "the UNIVAC".

The first UNIVAC was delivered to the United States Census Bureau on March 31, 1951 and was dedicated on June 14th that year.[1] The fifth machine (built for the Atomic Energy Commission) was used by CBS to predict the 1952 presidential election. With a sample of just 1% of the voting population it predicted that Eisenhower would win.

The UNIVAC I computers were built by Remington Rand's UNIVAC-division (successor of the Eckert-Mauchly Computer Corporation, bought by Rand in 1950).

UNIVAC I used 5,200 vacuum tubes, weighed 29,000 pounds (13 metric tons), consumed 125 kW, and could perform about 1,905 operations per second running on a 2.25 MHz clock. The Central Complex alone (i.e. the processor and memory unit) was 14 feet by 8 feet by 8.5 feet high (4.3 m × 2.4 m × 2.6 m). The complete system occupied more than 350 ft² (35.5 m²) of floor space.

More here.

U.S. Intelligence Redux Is Harshly Judged

Walter Pincus writes in The Washington Post:

U.S. Court of Appeals Judge Richard A. Posner sharply criticized the restructuring of U.S. intelligence agencies last week, telling CIA lawyers that the overhaul has done nothing to rectify flaws exposed by al-Qaeda's Sept. 11, 2001, attacks and that the changes "in the end . . . will amount to rather little."

Posner, who has written extensively on intelligence matters, questioned "the wisdom and consequences" of the intelligence overhaul passed by Congress in December 2004, which he said was based on "a deep misunderstanding of the limitations of national security intelligence."

That misunderstanding, Posner argued, came from a naive belief that intelligence agencies can somehow be made infallible. "Failure in a democratic society," he said, "demands a response that promises, however improbably, to prevent future failures. [And] the preferred response is a reorganization, because it is at once dramatic and relatively cheap."

I like this guy.

More here.

IT Workers Tell Congress to Limit H-1B Program

Grant Gross writes on NetworkWorld:

Two U.S. technology workers on Thursday urged Congress not to increase the cap on skilled foreign workers allowed to come into the country each year, saying more immigrants would hurt homegrown IT experts.

The H-1B visa program, used by the technology industry and other companies to import foreign labor, is "far different" than the program described by supporters as a way to fill high-skill jobs, said David Huber, a network administrator with 15 years of experience.

"The real H-1B program has more to do with providing companies with cheap labor, and little to do with making America more competitive," he told a House of Representatives subcommittee.

More here.

Hackers Use BBC News as IE Attack Lure

Ryan Naraine writes on eWeek:

The ongoing zero-day attacks against users of Microsoft's Internet Explorer browser have taken an ominous, social-engineering twist.

According to an alert issued by Websense Security Labs, in San Diego, excerpts from actual BBC News stories are being used to lure IE users to Web sites that launch drive-by downloads of bots, spyware, back doors and other Trojan downloaders.

More here.

Democrats Attack Telecom Bill Over Net Neutrality

Declan McCullagh writes on C|Net News:

Democrats in the U.S. House of Representatives on Thursday assailed a new telecommunications bill for allegedly failing to preserve Net neutrality principles.

The Republican-backed proposal unveiled this week would give the Federal Communications Commission the authority to go after individual violations of end-to-end connectivity principles, but it does not include a weighty set of regulations that all broadband providers must follow.

But that's not nearly sufficiently regulatory, the Democrats charged, pointing to the section of the measure that prohibits the FCC from making any new rules related to Net neutrality. Many technology firms, including Microsoft and Google, have also backed more regulations.

More here.

'Sudden External Impact' Cripples Russian Satellite

Peter de Selding writes on

A Russian telecommunications satellite in geostationary orbit failed March 29 following what its builder says was a “sudden external impact” of undetermined origin.

The satellite, Express-AM11, is being moved into a graveyard orbit before on-board temperatures render it uncontrollable, the Russian Satellite Communications Co. (RSCC) announced March 30.

More here.

UCSD Engineers Demonstrate Revolutionary Photonic Technology

Jacobs School electrical and computer engineering professor Stojan Radic.
Image source:


Until now much of the investment on equipment to generate, transport and detect signals traveling through optical fiber has revolved around 1.55 micron (infrared) as the standard wavelength for telecommunications. Yet many critical new applications rely on other wavelengths (colors) for optical transmission that hitherto could not be generated, carried or received by today's standard equipment.

Now, researchers at the University of California, San Diego have demonstrated a way to build on the dominant infrastructure rather than replace it -- by "translating" optical signals between the current infrared standard and a wide range of other bands of light.

More here.

'Clear And Present Danger' For Telecom Reform Bill

Roy Mark writes on

Big tech urged Congress today to stop telephone and cable operators from extending their market power over broadband access to broadband content.

Speaking at the first hearing on the House Republicans' new telecom reform effort, Paul Misener, Amazon's vice president for Global Public Policy, told lawmakers the lack of an effective network neutrality clause in the legislation represents a "clear and present danger" to Internet content choice.

"The phone and cable companies are going to fundamentally alter the Internet in America unless Congress acts to stop them," Misener testified. "They have the market power, technical means and regulatory permission to control American consumers' access to broadband Internet content, and they've announced their plans to do so."

More here.

Nokia Staff Jacked by Ernst & Young Laptop Loss

Ashlee Vance writes on The Register:

When Ernst & Young loses a laptop, it doesn't mess around. The Register has learned that the same missing system with personal information on Sun Microsystems, Cisco, IBM and BP workers also contained data on Nokia's US staff.

A Nokia source notified us that he received a letter from Ernst & Young detailing the accounting firm's loss of his personal information. An Ernst & Young spokesman then confirmed that the laptop was "the same" machine with thousands of Sun, Cisco, IBM and BP staff data, including their ages, social security numbers, tax identification numbers and addresses. Ernst & Young continues to maintain that the laptop poses little risk as it was password protected.

More here.

411 Directory Proposal Could Doom Senate’s Phone Records Bill

Heather Forsgren Weaver writes on RCR WIreless News:

The Senate Commerce Committee Thursday morning passed the Protecting Consumer Phone Records Act of 2006 but only after adding an amendment that the chairman of the committee believes will doom the bill to failure.

By voice vote, the Senate Commerce Committee amended the bill to require that wireless carriers first obtain their customers’ permission before including their mobile-phone numbers in a wireless 411 directory.

Some in the industry support creating a 411 directory for wireless-phone numbers, but privacy advocates have pushed for Congress to act before the directory can be created.

More here.

V is for Vonage...T is for Takeover

Paul R. La Monica writes on CNN/Money:

Turn on the TV these days and it's hard to miss commercials for Internet phone company Vonage, featuring that catchy (or annoying) "Woo Hoo" song.

But can Vonage parlay its increased consumer exposure into a lucrative initial public offering? Or is the company, which is hemorrhaging money, actually trying to shop itself to a larger telecom firm?

Vonage filed to go public nearly two months ago but it has yet to file any amended registration statements with the Securities and Exchange Commission. That's an unusually long time between filings and has led some telecom industry observers to speculate about whether Vonage might be looking to sell out instead.

More here.

Canada: Judge Upholds Extradition of High-Tech Executive

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

A judge has upheld the extradition from the Czech Republic of a former high-tech executive who fled Canada after it was discovered his three-dimensional television products were elaborate fakes.

Sheldon Zelitt was convicted in absentia in January 2003 of 11 offences under the Alberta Securities Act. At the time he was chief executive of Calgary-based VisuaLabs Inc., once a stock market favourite.

Zelitt was caught trying to pass off a store-bought Sony TV set as his own invention.

More here.

Denmark Has More Mobile Subscribers Than Inhabitants

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

Denmark has more mobile phone subscriptions than inhabitants, according to official figures published by the national telecommunications agency.

The country counted 5.47 million mobile phone subscriptions on December 31, the equivalent of 100.8 for every 100 inhabitants.

By contrast, there are only 61.7 subcribers to fixed lines for every 100 inhabitants, the agency said.

More here.

Spammer Rizler Lands in 'SuperMax' Lock-Up


Brian McWillaims writes on the Spam Kings blog:

Former employees and business associates of Minnesota spam king Christopher William Smith ("Rizler") can breathe a little easier. Authorities confirmed today that Smith, 26, has been moved to a super-maximum security prison, following his indictment last week for allegedly trying to take out a hit on a witness in his federal case.

Smith is now locked up at the Oak Park Heights (OPH) facility in Stillwater, one of a handful of super maximum ("supermax") security prisons in the USA.

More here.

UK: Crackdown on Corporate P2P Usage


The Federation Against Software Theft is about to take action against a number of companies in the UK that have been caught making illegal copies of software available for download from their networks – which may come as a complete surprise to the companies.

The Federation isn't naming the companies yet. Director General John Lovelock told OUT-LAW today that a plan of attack is being finalised; but Lovelock expects the companies to be named and shamed in due course. "This isn't about the money," he says. "It's about the principle of stopping IP theft."

More here.

USPTO Rejects 'Buy it Now' Patent

Via BetaNews.

eBay disclosed Thursday that the U.S. Patent and Trademark Office had ruled in its favor earlier this week, upholding an earlier decision that a patent awarded to MercExchange was "obvious" and should have not been issued. The two sides are currently facing off in the U.S. Supreme Court over eBay's use of the "Buy it Now" feature.

A District Court had found that the service infringed on patents owned by MercExchange. However, instead of issuing an injunction, the court awarded the company a monetary judgment. An appeals court later ruled an injunction was warranted. The rejected patent is central to the Supreme Court case, and eBay said its contents were referred to repeatedly during arguments Wendesday. While MercExhchange is permitted to respond, the auction site said it was unlikely any new arguments would change the USPTO's view.

More here.

California Man Charged in 'Click Fraud' Case

A UPI news snippet, via, reports that:

A California man has been charged with using a "click fraud" scheme to chisel the FreeRide Web site out of reward points used to obtain free merchandise.

Allen Tam, 32, of Daly City, allegedly used source code he obtained from his employer to set up a "robot" program that registered scores of clicks on the FreeRide Web site, racking up reward points in the process that were redeemed for products offered by and other Internet retailers.

More here.

Comptel Challenges FCC Ruling on Verizon

A UPI news snippet, via, reports that:

The telecom industry group Comptel is challenging a recent FCC ruling that stripped a wide range of regulations from Verizon's high-capacity data services.

Comptel filed a petition for review Wednesday with the federal appeals court in Washington on the grounds the Federal Communications Commission failed to protect the public interest in its ruling.

More here.

UK: 60% of Government Websites Contain HTML Errors

Via The BBC.

More than half of government and council websites contain errors and cause problems for disabled people, research shows.

Some 60% of UK government websites contain HTML errors, according to a study by the University of Southampton.

A similar proportion do not comply with guidelines created to improve web access, it found.

In response, a government spokesman said the UK had been actively promoting better accessibility of sites.

More here.

Apple iPhone Soon? Not Likely

Ryan Katz writes over on Think Secret:

Contrary to published reports, two independent sources speaking on condition of anonymity recently disclosed to Think Secret that Apple's cell phone ambitions have been put on hold as the company has encountered "significant technological hurdles" in developing the product.

Apple is said to have wanted to develop its cell phone from the ground up and not merely redesign or re-brand an existing phone with a different interface. In the process of doing so, however, sources say the company has run into problems making the various cell phone components work together. Issues also have cropped up with the chip Apple was using that receives the cellular signal.

More here.

Gapingvoid: We Had A Plan

Via Enjoy!

Packet-Sniffing Techie Uncovers Spousal Infidelity

John Leyden writes on The Register:

Len Holgate usually writes about Windows software development and programming in C++. But in a break from the norm he recently wrote about how he installed (with some difficulty) a packet sniffer on his network after becoming suspicious that Michelle, his partner of 17 years, was cheating on him.

"The sniffer provided me with evidence that Michelle had been having an affair since mid-January. I confronted her and we decided to try and see if we could 'work it out' during our ski trip to Colorado. During the trip I decided that the relationship couldn't continue and so on our return she moved out. We're currently doing the separation of assets thing. We hope to be able to remain friends. Since I don't hate her, I figure that nobody else is allowed to," Len writes.

The coder offers the following sage advice to the less technically adept: "If you plan to use technology when cheating it's probably best to understand the technology involved better than the person that you're cheating on," he adds.

More here.

Movie Theater Execs Still Fighting Shrinking DVD Window

Harmful to consumers. Right. We believe you, you greedy bastards.

A Reuters newswire article by Paul Thomasch and Yinka Adegoke, via Yahoo! News, reports that:

Executives from top movie theater chains on Wednesday dismissed calls to shorten the period between a film's release on the big screen and on DVD, saying it would be harmful to studios, theaters and consumers.

Some studio executives, including Walt Disney Co. Chief Executive Robert Iger, have called for faster DVD releases to combat rising piracy over the Internet, amid slowing sales of DVDs and a U.S. box office slump.

More here.

Online Bidders Vie for Wartime Enigma Machine

A WWII Enigma Machine on display at the National Security Agency.
Image source:

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

Bidders in an internet auction are offering over 13,000 euros ($15,600) for a wartime German encoding machine, similar to ones whose messages were cracked by British code breakers in World War Two.

The portable Enigma encryption machine made in 1941 has a keyboard and a series of rotors designed to scramble messages. It is up for sale on internet auction site, eBay.

More here.

U.S. Justice Department Subpoenas Reach Far Beyond Google

Thomas Claburn writes on InformationWeek:

In its effort to uphold the 1998 Child Online Protection Act (COPA), the U.S. Department of Justice is leaving no stone unturned. Its widely reported issuance of subpoenas to Internet search companies AOL, MSN, Google, and Yahoo is just the tip of the iceberg: The government has demanded information from at least 34 Internet service providers, search companies, and security software firms.

Responding to a Freedom of Information Act request filed by InformationWeek, the Department of Justice disclosed that it has issued to subpoenas to a broad range of companies that includes AT&T, Comcast Cable, Cox Communications, EarthLink, LookSmart, SBC Communications (then separate from AT&T), Symantec, and Verizon.

Asked which companies objected to, or sought to limit, these subpoenas, Department of Justice spokesperson Charles Miller declined to comment because the litigation is ongoing. He also declined to comment on the utility of the information gathered by the government.

More here.

Taiwan Telecom Blames VoIP for Drop in Long Distance Calls

Dan Nystedt writes on InfoWorld:

Taiwan's largest telecommunications company on Thursday blamed VOIP (voice over Internet protocol) for part of a dropoff in long distance revenue last year, a trend companies worldwide face as users turn to Internet services such as Skype for low cost or no cost voice calls.

It's an issue network operators are grappling with around the world, and users should pay attention to the issue. Telephone networks cost hundreds of millions of dollars to build, and companies want to wring every dollar they can to pay for them and grow their businesses. Low-cost or no-cost VOIP calling is a threat to their earnings, and telecom industry complaints could prompt government regulators to step in and offer protection. If that happens, users could miss out on lower cost Internet calling.

More here.

Virginia Law Directs Schools to Teach Cyber-Safety

Rosalind S. Helderman writes in The Washington Post:

Virginia public schools will be required to teach students about Internet safety under a law passed by the General Assembly and signed by Gov. Timothy M. Kaine (D) this month.

The law, which takes effect July 1, is designed to ensure that tech-savvy children understand the dangers lurking in cyberspace. The measure's sponsor, Del. William H. Fralin Jr. (R-Roanoke), said he wrote the bill after his oldest son turned 10 and started competing with his parents for computer time.

More here.

Wired Gallery: 30 Years of Apple Products

The Apple Lisa
Image source:

Via Wired News.

In a garage in Los Altos, California, in 1976, two young college dropouts and some friends assembled and soldered 500 motherboards by hand to be sold by a local hobbyist electronics shop. Thirty years later, Steve Jobs' and Steve Wozniak's Apple Computer has produced hundreds of computer models, and introduced to the world a string of groundbreaking products, from the first PDA to the iPod.

This monster gallery of Apple's computers features most of the major products from the last three decades, and is adapted from the vast library at The most notable exception is the Performa line, which were often less-expensive, re-branded siblings of other machines.

Much more here.

Dilbert: Marketing Biathlon

Click for larger image.

Wednesday, March 29, 2006

30 March 1857: Happy Birthday, Léon Charles Thévenin


Léon Charles Thévenin
Image source:

Via WIkipedia.

Léon Charles Thévenin (March 30, 1857- September 21, 1926) was a French telegraph engineer who extended Ohm's law to the analysis of complex electrical circuits.

Born in Meaux, Thevenin graduated from the Ecole Polytechnique in Paris in 1876. In 1878, he joined the corps of telegraph Engineers (which subsequently became the French PTT). There, he initially worked on the development of long distance underground telegraph lines.

Appointed as a teaching inspector at the École Superieure in 1882, he became increasingly interested in the problems of measurement in electrical circuits. As a result of studying Kirchhoff's circuit laws and Ohm's law, he developed his famous theorem, Thévenin's theorem, which made it possible to calculate currents in more complex electrical circuits.

Also, after becoming head of the Bureau des Lignes, he found time for teaching other subjects outside the École Superieure, including a course in mechanics at the Institut National Agronomique, Paris. In 1896, he was appointed Director of the Telegraph Engineering School, and then in 1901, Engineer in chief of the telegraph workshops.

More here.

'No Flush' Urinal Controversy Could Sink Comacast's Philly Skyscraper

Keith Garvin writes on ABC News:

A controversy over no-flush urinals may sink a Philadelphia developer's quest to build the nation's tallest "green" building.

Liberty Property Trust, which is developing the Comcast Center skyscraper, insists the devices are cleaner than traditional urinals.

"We've encountered no health or safety issues in any of our buildings with no-flush urinals," says Jeanne Leonard, Liberty's investor relations director.

Nevertheless, Liberty is caught in a tug-of-war with the local plumbers union over whether to install state-of-the-art waterless urinals at the Comcast Center, scheduled to open by September 2007.

More here.

Judge Denies Microsoft Subpoenas Against Rivals

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

A District Court in California on Wednesday quashed an attempt by Microsoft Corp. to force Sun Microsystems Inc. and Oracle Corp. to provide documents in its battle with the European Commission.

But judges in New York and Boston are still considering similar requests against IBM and Novell Inc.,respectively, as Microsoft fights against possible fines of up to 2 million euros a day for failing to carry out sanctions imposed by the Commission, lawyers for one of the companies said.

More here.

Kodak Accused of Compressing Pics to Save Space

Image source: Engadget

Marc Perton writes on Engadget:

When you upload your pics to a photo sharing site, you're usually warned in advance if the site compresses the pics, right? Well, not if you used Kodak's online gallery, according to one former employee who is suing the photo giant.

According to Maya Raber, Kodak's former director of engineering, the company "irreversibly damaged" customers' pics, rather than just optimizing them as claimed.

More here.

Google Plans to Sell Another 5.3M Shares

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

Google Inc. filed plans Wednesday to sell another 5.3 million shares of its prized stock, hoping to raise more than $2 billion to finance its expansion plans and pay for possible acquisitions.

It marks the second time Google has returned to the stock market for more money since its ballyhooed initial public offering at $85 per share in August 2004.

More here.

Judges on Secretive Panel Speak Out on Spy Program

Eric Lichtblau writes in The New York Times:

Five former judges on the nation's most secretive court, including one who resigned in apparent protest over President Bush's domestic eavesdropping, urged Congress on Tuesday to give the court a formal role in overseeing the surveillance program.

In a rare glimpse into the inner workings of the secretive court, known as the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Court, several former judges who served on the panel also voiced skepticism at a Senate hearing about the president's constitutional authority to order wiretapping on Americans without a court order. They also suggested that the program could imperil criminal prosecutions that grew out of the wiretaps.

More here.

House Panel Approves Data Protection Bill

Grant Gross writes on InfoWorld:

A U.S. House of Representatives committee has unanimously approved a bill that would create new regulations for so-called data brokers, including a requirement that U.S. companies that traffic in personal data notify victims of breaches.

The House Energy and Commerce Committee's 41-0 approval of the Data Accountability and Trust Act comes a year after the beginning of a rash of data breaches at dozens of U.S. companies, starting with data brokers ChoicePoint Inc. and LexisNexis. The bill, which now goes to the full House for a vote, requires any company that "experiences reasonable risk of identity theft" to notify potential victims as well as the U.S. Federal Trade Commission (FTC).

More here.

Is Juniper Eyeing H3C?

Craig Matsumoto writes on Light Reading:

An acquisition rumor is dogging Juniper Networks Inc. yet again, this time claiming the company wants to buy a joint venture between Huawei Technologies Co. Ltd. and 3Com Corp.

Asian news outfit reported that talks are ongoing, with a preliminary purchase price of $1.7 billion.

H3C, as 3Com has taken to calling the joint venture, would boost Juniper's standing in the enterprise LAN. "This would likely allow them to go down market, and potentially not hurt the major Juniper brand depending on how they do it," writes analyst Mark Seery of Ovum-RHK Inc. , in an email to Light Reading. "If you are going to be in the enterprise market at all, no point being half pregnant. Might as well go all the way."

More here. Hosting Contract Up in May 2006

Dawn Kawamoto writes on the C|Net News Google Blog:

The National Football League has its arm cocked and is ready to throw its popular Web site into a crowded field of potential receivers, ranging from Internet giant Yahoo to media giant NBC.

The move comes as the five-year contract with current site operator CBS comes to a close in mid-May and the NFL explores its options to team up with a partner, or partners, that could operate the site and more.

More here.

Google Signs Agreement for AOL Stake

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

Internet search leader Google Inc. on Wednesday said it signed a definitive agreement for its planned purchase of a 5 percent stake in Time Warner Inc.'s AOL.

Google struck an agreement with Time Warner in December to purchase a $1 billion stake in the AOL online division and agreed to expand its Web search and advertising alliance.

Google said the two sides signed definitive agreements governing the investment on March 24, according to a filing with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission. The deal is still expected to close in the second quarter.

More here.

eBay: SCOTUS Justices Skeptical of Curtailing Patent Rights

A Reuters newswire article, via The Washington Post, reports that:

U.S. Supreme Court justices showed little inclination to scale back the rights of patent holders, sharply questioning arguments made by lawyers representing online auctioneer eBay Inc.

During oral arguments before the high court on Wednesday, several of the justices expressed skepticism about eBay's contention that a federal appeals court had made it too easy for patent owners to get injunctions barring the use of their technologies.

More here.

AT&T Exec: More Telco Consolidation Ahead

Dan Frommer writes on

Thought the AT&T-BellSouth merger was the end of telcom consolidation? Think again, says AT&T Chief Operating Officer Randall Stephenson.

Stephenson says he expects further coupling in the telecom sector, but it's unlikely AT&T will lead the spree.

"This industry is changing so fast. I don't think the industry is through consolidating," Stephenson said today at an investor conference in New York. "It doesn't necessarily mean that we're a part of it going forward, but I do think this industry will continue to consolidate and change."

More here.