Saturday, April 15, 2006

16 April 1996: France Télécom Introduces Wanadoo


Via Wikipedia.

Wanadoo is a French Internet Service Provider (ISP), which is a subsidiary of France Télécom. It operates in France, the United Kingdom, the Netherlands, Spain, Algeria, Morocco, Senegal, Mauritius, Madagascar, Lebanon & Jordan.

The origin of the name Wanadoo is subject to some controversy, as some maintain it came about in the late 1990s when many internet companies competed to choose 'Yahoo' sounding names. However it might be that the name Wanadoo first appeared in an internal project at France Télécom, much in line with a number of other such projects such as Intranoo, Tatoo, Netatoo and @noo.

Wanadoo was floated on the stock market on 18 July 2000. In 2000, Wanadoo also took over the major British ISP Freeserve, which had previously been part of the Dixons Group (now DSG International plc). Following the buy-out, Freeserve maintained its own branding for a while before finally changing to the Wanadoo name on 28 April 2004.

Wanadoo is currently the largest ISP in Europe (counting the subscribers of Telekomunikacja Polska) with over ten million subscribers, largely concentrated in France, the UK, Spain, the Netherlands and Poland.

More here.

User Friendly: The Rectangular Planet


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Criminal Tech: Gangs Turn Cocaine into Clear Plastic Products

Paul Marks writes in a NewScientistTech article preview:

They've tried airbags, printer cartridges and every conceivable body cavity. Now cocaine smugglers have another trick up their sleeves. Evidence from a clandestine lab in eastern Europe suggests that gangs are trying to hide cocaine by incorporating it into a host of innocent-looking transparent plastic consumer products, such as fish tanks, DVD cases or light fittings for cars. These could be imported en masse with no customs officer giving them a second look.

The trick came to light after police searched an abandoned tenement building in Ljubljana, Slovenia, where they suspected cocaine was being produced. There they found a makeshift lab complete with mixers, drying systems and containers filled with various solvents, plus translucent lumps of plastic littering the floor.

Analysis of the plastic showed that it consisted mainly of polymethyl methacrylate (better known as plexiglas or perspex) laced with cocaine hydrochloride.

More here.

The NYPD Wants to Take Your Picture -- But No Reciprocity

Sarah Ferguson (no relation) writes in The Village Voice:

Since 2003, the NYPD has been filming protesters at political demonstrations, regardless of whether anything illegal's going on. City lawyers were in court last month defending the practice, arguing that what happens in public view is fair game.

But police evidently aren't so keen on surveillance when the cameras are turned on them—particularly when those cameras show them abusing free-street-parking privileges.

On March 27, two volunteers from the advocacy group Transportation Alternatives were detained for taking pictures of police officers' private cars, which were parked on the sidewalk outside the Fifth Precinct in Chinatown. The volunteers say they were held and questioned at the precinct for about 20 minutes and instructed to erase the pictures.

More here.

Friday, April 14, 2006

15 April 1452: Happy Birthday, Leonardo da Vinci


Portrait in red chalk, circa 1512 to 1515, widely (though not universally)
accepted as a genuine self-portrait.

Image source: Wikipedia

Via WIkipedia.

Leonardo da Vinci (Vinci, Italy, April 15, 1452 — May 2, 1519, Cloux, Amboise, France) was an Italian Renaissance polymath: an architect, musician, anatomist, inventor, engineer, sculptor, geometer, and painter. He has been described as the archetype of the " Renaissance man" and as a universal genius, a man infinitely curious and infinitely inventive. He is also considered one of the greatest painters that ever lived.

In his lifetime, Leonardo — he had no surname in the modern sense; "da Vinci" simply means "from Vinci" — was an engineer, artist, anatomist, physiologist and much more. His full birth name was "Leonardo di ser Piero da Vinci", meaning "Leonardo, of ser Piero from Vinci". Leonardo is famous for his paintings, such as the Mona Lisa and The Last Supper, as well as for influential drawings such as the Vitruvian Man. He designed many inventions that anticipated modern technology, such as the helicopter, tank, use of solar power, the calculator, etc., though few of these designs were constructed or were feasible in his lifetime.

More here.

University of South Carolina e-Mail Compromises Student IDs

An AP newswire article, via MSNBC, reports that:

University of South Carolina officials are advising students to watch their credit reports after the Social Security numbers of as many as 1,400 students were mistakenly e-mailed to classmates.

A department chairwoman distributing information about summer classes accidentally attached a database file to an e-mail she sent Sunday. The database included students’ Social Security numbers.

So far, the school is not aware of any misuse of the information, but officials notified students of the lapse Monday and suggested they take precautions against identity theft.

More here.

How Sun's 'Open DRM' Dooms Them and All They Touch

Via Boing Boing.

David Berlind has written about Sun's "Open DReaM" crippleware project, a DRM that pretends to be "open source" and an "open platform" in a cynical bid to curry favor with copyfighters and studios. The gimmick is that Sun's technology has to be run as signed code on trusted computing hardware, which means that while you can see the code, you can't change it, improve it, or build on it.

Once you have code you can't modify on hardware you can't access, "open source" can't be meaningfully used to describe a project. The key to free and open source software is the right of users to understand, modify, and distribute their changes to the tools they use -- to continue a tradition as old as the Enlightenment and as fundamental as the scientific method.

Sun's project doesn't subvert DRM, it subverts open source. It complies -- barely -- with the letter of older OSS definitions, while gutting their spirit. It's a car with the hood welded shut, with an "open" engine underneath the welding-seam.

This is a betrayal of the OSS community by Sun, which should know better.

More here.

Fighting Over the Scraps from ICANN's Table

Wendy Seltzer writes on CircleID:

I’ve finally recovered from another ICANN meeting, frustrated as ever. 700 or so people flew halfway around the world to hear canned presentations, dueling-monologue public form sessions, and resolutions that left major issues unresolved, and to gripe in the hallways about how little was being done.

Every time I talked to someone who had been away from the ICANN scene for some time and returned, I heard the same assessment: “It looks just the same as it did N years ago,” for varying values of N. Yet many of us return nonetheless, I because I’m still trying to make ICANN responsive to the public interest.

More here.

PatchLink Warns on IE Patch

Joris Evers writes on C|Net News:

An Internet Explorer update released earlier this week can interfere with some applications, including Google's Toolbar, according to PatchLink, a maker of patch management software.

Other applications affected by the Web browser patch include business software from Oracle's Siebel customer relationship management unit and certain Web applications that use specific versions of Java, PatchLink said Friday.

The problems arise because of changes Microsoft made to how the Web browser handles Web programs called ActiveX controls. The modifications are designed to shield Microsoft from liability in a high-profile patent dispute with Eolas Technologies and the University of California.

More here.

Pennsylvania to Install Cell Tracking Technology

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

You pass an accident on a lonely stretch of highway at night. You call 911 on your cell phone to report it but don't know exactly where you are. Soon that won't be a problem in Cambria County, where emergency officials said they plan to install technology allowing county 911 dispatchers to track where emergency calls are placed.

The city of Allentown and nine counties have such technology, but other counties do not — placing the state well behind the rest of the country in emergency response capabilities.

About one-third of Pennsylvania residents live in areas capable of locating 911 cell phone callers precisely, according to recent data from the National Emergency Number Association. Only Mississippi, Montana, Oklahoma, Utah, Hawaii and Ohio fared worse. In Oklahoma, only about 1 percent of state residents are covered; in Ohio, the figure is only about 4 percent.

More here.

U.S. Military Buys Back Data From Afghans

A handful of memory sticks are displayed at the bazaar outside the U.S. military
base in Bagram, Afghanistan, on Wednesday.

Image source: MSNBC / Shoaib Amin / AP

An AP newswire article, via MSNBC, reports that:

American investigators armed with a “box full” of cash have paid thousands of dollars to buy back stolen computer drives — many of which contain sensitive military data, shopkeepers outside the main U.S. military base in Afghanistan said Friday.

But dozens are still on sale, including memory sticks with information ranging from U.S. troop resumes to photographs of Air Force One during President Bush’s visit last month.

The surfacing of the stolen computer devices has sparked an urgent probe to discover how security could have been breached at the heavily guarded Bagram base, which coordinates the fight against Taliban and al-Qaida militants and includes one of the military’s main detention facilities for suspected terrorists.

More here.

Toon: Breaking The Tax Code

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Firefox Steals A Page From Internet Explorer To Heal Javascript

Via eMail Battles.

The latest Firefox update ( fixes a number of headaches, trimming back the memory leak "feature", and shutting down remote code execution. But one of the most frequently reported bugs centered around JavaScript problems.

How bad is it? The bug is so bad that, Mozilla developers say, it can bring performance to the edge of a cliff. To fix it, Mozillites turned to their old nemesis, Internet Explorer.

More here.

ICANN to Consider .TEL TLD

An AP newswire article, via CNN, reports that:

To help people manage all their contact information online, the Internet's key oversight agency is considering a ".tel" domain name. If approved, the domain could be available this year.

As proposed, individuals could use a ".tel" Web site to provide the latest contact information and perhaps even let friends initiate a call or send a text message directly from the site. Businesses could use a ".tel" site to determine customers' locations and route them automatically to the correct call center.

Its proponents also envision ".tel" as a place from which the various people-finding services on the Internet could pull the latest contact information as individuals move about. Now, data typically come from third-party sources like phone listings, which may be old or incomplete, particularly if an entire household is listed under one name.

More here.

NASA Won't Release DART Mission Report

An AP newswire article by Alicia Chang, via ABC Technology News, reports that:

Citing sensitive information, NASA said Friday it will not publicly release its official report on the failure of a spacecraft during a mission to rendezvous with a Pentagon satellite without human help.

The 70-page document on the DART spacecraft mishap contains details protected by the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, said space agency spokesman Michael Braukus.

But NASA plans to release a summary of the report that will explain why DART did not complete its mission last year, Braukus said. An initial analysis found the 800-pound spacecraft suffered a fuel problem, but engineers did not detect a fuel leak.

More here.

Wells Fargo Not Required to Encrypt Data

Declan McCullagh writes on C|Net News:

Wells Fargo had hired Regulus Integrated Solutions to print monthly statements for certain customers who had mortgages and student loans from its subsidiaries. In October 2004, thieves stole computers from Regulus with unencrypted customer information including names, addresses, Social Security numbers and account numbers.

A few weeks later, Wells Fargo alerted its customers and offered to provide identity protection services.

There has never been any indication to date that thieves did anything with the data (in other words, they appear to have been after the computer hardware instead).

Nevertheless, two of the bank's customers, Kristine Forbes and Morgan Koop, filed a class action suit anyway. They claimed that Wells Fargo was liable for emotional distress (including fear, anxiety and worry), negligence, breach of contract and breach of fiduciary duty. Forbes and Koop claimed that Wells Fargo owed them a cash payout because they had to spend extra time monitoring their credit reports.

More here.

The RBOCs Want Inside Your House

Phil Harvey writes on Light Reading:

As if selling you voice, video, and data services weren't enough, three of the nation's largest phone companies have designs to help build and manage your home network, too.

In recent interviews with three RBOC technology executives, AT&T Inc., Verizon Communications Inc., and Qwest Communications International Inc. each told Light Reading that being a service provider will soon mean managing all aspects and equipment related to any voice, video, and data service inside the home.

Each provider has a slightly different take on what type of residential gateway to use, and the video distribution schemes are still coming into focus. But it is clear that residential gateways are increasing in importance, as are the ability of carriers to hold on to customers for life by managing all the services that touch their homes.

More here.

Apple Legal Sends Little Girl Running, Crying to Room

Ryan Block writes on Engadget:

So as the story goes, eight year old Shea was learning to write letters in her third grade class; Shea also happened to be really into her iPod nano. So she decided to hit up Stevie J. with a list of her ideas on how to improve the nano -- you know, standard stuff like "slip a little chip" in there to add support for lyrics, movies, etc. (what, don't you want to officially play Doom, too, or at least Pac-Man?).

After three months Shea received a reply from Cupertino... signed by Apple's Senior Counsel, Mark Aaker, who put the little girl in her place by stating "please do not send" suggestions, and letting her know Apple doesn't accept unsolicited ideas. Said Shea, who went running to her room, "It was kind of like they were saying, 'Oh, we don't want your idea -- it's not good or anything.'"

More here.

Oops: NASA's New VoIP System Crashes

Aliya Sternstein writes on

This week, a new voice-over-IP (VOIP) telephone system at NASA headquarters sparked an outage that cut off computer network and phone service for hours, forcing key NASA employees to communicate via cell phones and personal digital assistants.

On April 12, around 1:30 p.m., headquarters’ workstation network and VOIP connectivity went down when workers were configuring the new VOIP system.

Technicians restored workstation connectivity by 3 p.m., but VOIP service was out until 7:30 p.m.

NASA headquarters began installing the VOIP system in January.

“As a result of this unfortunate event, NASA [officials] have made some procedural changes and have also nearly completed planned mechanisms to more quickly restore VOIP service should a problem of this nature occur anytime in the future. NASA will proceed as planned with the system upgrade to improve future performance,” NASA spokeswoman Sonja Alexander said today.

More here.

Networks, Stations Challenge FCC in Court

An AP newswire article, via MSNBC, reports that:

Four TV networks and their affiliates have filed court challenges to a March 15 Federal Communications Commission ruling that found several programs "indecent" because of language.

ABC, NBC, CBS and Fox, along with their network affiliate associations and the Hearst-Argyle Television Inc. group of stations, filed notices of appeal in various federal courts, including in Washington, D.C., and New York. Some of the appeals were filed late Thursday and the rest Friday morning.

More here.

Suspected Czech Phishing Mule Busted

Robert Lemos writes on SecurityFocus:

Law enforcement authorities in Prague charged a man with assisting in fraud, after arresting him at a bank where he allegedly attempted to pick up cash wired to him by phishing victims.

The man--thought to be a middleman, or "mule," used by a phishing gang to pick up proceeds of the scam--is the first to be arrested for such crimes in the Czech Republic, according to newspaper accounts and a statement released by antivirus firm Sophos. The man had allegedly tried to withdraw tens of thousands of Czech Crowns (Koruna), equivalent to thousands of U.S. dollars at the current exchange rate.

More here.

Old World Businesses Win Longevity Contest by a Long Shot

Tech angle: Longevity? Not sure. But it's rather interesting nonetheless :-)

Hanna DeBarre writes in The San Francisco Chronicle:

Think that Bay Area companies like Fireman's Fund that survived the 1906 earthquake are old? They're just babes in the North American woods.

To find really old companies, take a trip to Asia or Europe. Family Business magazine lists the following as the oldest family-owned companies in the world:

  • Kongo Gumi (Osaka, Japan), founded 578. Now run by the 40th generation of the same family, this construction firm began by building the Buddhist Shitennoji Temple in Osaka, which still stands.

  • Hoshi Ryokan (Komatsu, Japan), founded 718. Innkeeping.

  • Fonderia Pontificia Marinelli (Agnone, Italy), founded about 1000. Bell foundry.

  • Barone Ricasoli (Siena, Italy), founded 1141. Wine and olive oil.

Earthlink Finalizes Acquisition of New Edge Networks

Denise Pappalardo writes on NetworkWorld:

Earthlink Thursday finalized its deal to buy New Edge Networks for $144 million.

Earthlink is using 2.6 million shares and $114.3 million in cash to acquire New Edge, which provides managed VPN and Internet access services for business customers and service providers.

The companies originally announced their plans in December.

Privately held New Edge operates a national data network that runs over an ATM core with 850 carrier class switches, the service provider says. The company also offers DSL, private line, frame relay, ATM and IP services.

More here.

FBI Links Big Film Names to a Detective

David M. Halbfinger and Allison Hope Weiner write in The New York Times:

The chairman of Paramount Pictures and a onetime Hollywood superagent had far more direct dealings than they have acknowledged publicly with the celebrity detective at the center of a rapidly expanding wiretapping scandal, according to government evidence.

Brad Grey, Paramount's chairman, told the F.B.I. that he spoke with Anthony Pellicano about two lawsuits in which Mr. Pellicano, a private detective, was working on Mr. Grey's behalf, and that he learned information about his legal opponents directly from Mr. Pellicano. A former employee of Mr. Pellicano, who was charged in February with wiretapping and conspiracy, separately told the F.B.I. that Mr. Grey had met with the detective at least five times.

Publicly, Mr. Grey has said that he was only "casually acquainted" with Mr. Pellicano, and that his lawyers were responsible for hiring and overseeing the detective.

More here.

Gapingvoid: Money Doesn't Matter

Via Enjoy!

Cyberbanging: Gangs in Maryland Throw Rivals A Cyberpunch

Allison Klein writes in The Washington Post:

The threat from the Washington area gang Street Thug Criminals was very clear: "We swore we were going to get the *bleep* that did this and we are. RIP Antonio."

It was delivered the way almost everything seems to be these days: on a Web page.

The Street Thug Criminals have an Internet page, and they used it to warn a rival Langley Park gang that Antonio's death would be avenged.

Police call it "cyberbanging" -- gang members openly bragging about affiliations, skipping school, getting high and battling rival gangs.

More here.

Battlefield Tech: Crusher -- Autonomous War Wagon

Image source: Gizmodo

Via Gizmodo.

Like a giant, autonomous Half-Life crate, the Crusher—and its little sister Spinner—is a rolling, intelligent battlefield delivery system. For example, the Crusher aka the UGCV PerceptOR Integrated (UPI) can wander along with a platoon and dispense rocket launchers like dangerous Pez.

It can also right itself and carry its own payload and complete its own missions. It also collects and uses terrain data for mapping environments and keeping itself on track.

User Friendly: The God of Tom Cruise


Click for larger image.

ISP Snooping Gaining Support

Declan McCullagh writes on C|Net News:

The explosive idea of forcing Internet providers to record their customers' online activities for future police access is gaining ground in state capitols and in Washington, D.C.

Top Bush administration officials have endorsed the concept, and some members of the U.S. Congress have said federal legislation is needed to aid law enforcement investigations into child pornography. A bill is already pending in the Colorado State Senate.

Mandatory data retention requirements worry privacy advocates because they permit police to obtain records of e-mail chatter, Web browsing or chat-room activity that normally would have been discarded after a few months. And some proposals would require providers to retain data that ordinarily never would have been kept at all.

More here.

Robotic Footballers Have a Ball

University of Plymouth Robo Football

Jonathan Fildes writes for The BBC:

A football tournament between teams of robots has been won by students from Plymouth University.

The third robot football UK championships ended in defeat for organisers Warwick University.

The event was aimed at helping the students improve the skills of their robots ahead of the Robot World Cup in Germany in June.

The machine shoot-out was held over two days at the Institution of Mechanical Engineers in London.

Nottingham, Oxford and the Open University also fielded teams.

Each university has to abide by strict guidelines set out by the Federation of International Robosoccer Association (Fira).

More here.

iTunes Must Play Fair in French Music Market

An AFP newswire article, via, reports that:

Apple Computer Inc. should have anticipated that the exclusive union of its iPod music players and online iTunes store would be challenged in France, Trade Minister Christine Lagarde said.

"It should come as no surprise," Lagarde told reporters during a visit to San Francisco.

The trade minister made the remark when asked what she might say to Apple's chief executive Steve Jobs about a proposed copyright bill in France that would sever the link between the company's iPod players and iTunes online music store.

"Any time a company restricts competition in a market, it gets the attention of regulating agencies. We have to play by the rules of the game," she said.

More here.

Thursday, April 13, 2006

14 April 1956: Videotape is First Demonstrated


A reel of 2" Quadruplex (aka 2" Quad) videotape dating from the mid-1970s,
compared with a modern-day miniDV digital videocassette for size comparison.
Image source: Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia.

Videotape is first demonstrated at the 1956 NARTB (now NAB) convention in Chicago, Illinois. It was the demonstation of the first practical and commercially successful format called 2" Quadruplex.

The first practical professional videotape machines were the Quadruplex machines introduced by Ampex in the United States in 1956. Quad employed a transverse (scanning the tape across its width) four-head system on a two-inch (5.08 cm) tape, and linear heads for the soundtrack. The BBC experimented with a high-speed linear videotape system called VERA, but this was ultimately unfeasible, it used 1/2 inch (1.27 cm) tape traveling at 200 inches (5.08 m) per second.

More here.

Samsung Picks Austin for $3.5 Billion Plant

Kirk Ladendorf writes in The Austin American-Statesman:

Austin's wait for Samsung is over.

The South Korean chip maker will start construction of a massive second chip factory in Austin next week. Its board of directors formally OK'd the project tonight, about six months after the company's site selection team formally recommended Austin.

Local and state officials think it is the largest-ever investment by a foreign company in a U.S. plant. The price tag is estimated at $3.5 billion to $4 billion. The factory is expected to employ about 900 workers, including both Samsung employees and those of supply companies who will work in the factory.

More here.

Two Researchers Reach Deal in Harvard Science Data Theft

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

Two researchers admitted on Thursday that they took scientific material from a Harvard University lab without permission and transported it to a new research job one of them had accepted in Texas.

The acknowledgment was part of a deal in which the U.S. Attorney's office agreed to defer prosecution of Jiangyu Zhu, 33, and Kayoko Kimbara, 35, on charges they transported more than $5,000 worth of stolen goods across state lines.

Zhu and Kimbara, who are married and now live in San Diego, both worked in a lab at Harvard Medical School's department of cell biology as postdoctoral research fellows. The couple was involved in research to develop immunosuppressive drugs to control organ rejection, and also to study the genes that regulate calcineurin, an important signaling enzyme in the heart, brain, and immune systems.

More here.

TiVo Scores Patent Win Against EchoStar

Tom Krazit writes on C|Net News:

A Texas jury has awarded TiVo $73.9 million in damages after finding that EchoStar infringed on patents held by TiVo for digital video recorders.

TiVo sued EchoStar in 2004 for violating a patent on a "multimedia time warping system," which involved recording a program on one channel while watching another. The case was being closely watched by TiVo investors. The company has struggled to grow as set-top box makers incorporate DVR capabilities in their products.

More here.

AOL Charged With Blocking Opponents' e-Mail

Stefanie Olsen writes on C|Net News:

America Online on Thursday apparently began blocking subscribers from sending or receiving e-mail containing the Web address of a petition against the company's upcoming certified-mail program.

The Internet service provider, which has roughly 20 million subscribers in the United States, began bouncing e-mail communications with the URL "" sometime early Thursday, according to nonprofit

A e-mail sent by CNET to an address and containing the URL "" bounced back on Thursday afternoon with a system administrator note that read: "The e-mail system was unable to deliver the message, but did not report a specific reason." is a coalition of companies and individuals against AOL's adoption of GoodMail's CertifiedEmail, an antispam program that requires marketers to pay to ensure delivery of their e-mail messages and circumvent spam filters. The Web site contains an open letter and a petition that calls on people to protest what it calls an "e-mail tax" that would inhibit the Internet's inherent free flow of information and create a two-tiered system.

More here.

Windows Defender Beta 2 Refreshed

Nate Mook writes on BetaNews:

Microsoft on Thursday released an updated version of Windows Defender Beta 2, the company's anti-spyware and malware application that will be integrated into Windows Vista. The release fixes bugs in signature updating, polishes the user interface and improves the software's SpyNet reporting capabilities.

Responding to feedback from users, Windows Defender can now remain active in the system tray at all times. The SpyNet feature enables users to send reports back to Microsoft and help the company keep ahead of malware authors. "With these upcoming changes to our reporting network and our core technology, we will improve our detection and removal capabilities even more in the upcoming months," said Microsoft's Anti-Malware Engineering Team.

More here.

JCSAT-9 Telecom Satellite Up and Running

A UPI news brief, via, reports that:

The Lockheed-built JCSAT-9 telecommunications satellite was in orbit and transmitting Thursday following its launch from the Pacific.

JCSAT-9 joins the constellation operated by Japan's JSAT Corp and will provide telecom services to the Pacific Rim region.

More here.

Qualcomm Fined $1.8M for Flarion Pre-Merger Violations

Via RCR Wireless News.

The Department of Justice reported Qualcomm Inc. and Flarion Technologies Inc. have agreed to pay a $1.8 million in civil penalties for violating “premerger waiting period requirements” associated with Qualcomm’s $600 million acquisition of Flarion.

According to the complaint, Qualcomm obtained operational control over Flarion without observing the premerger waiting period requirement in violation of antitrust laws. The merger agreement required Flarion to seek Qualcomm’s consent before undertaking certain basic business activities, such as making new proposals to customers. Flarion also sought and followed Qualcomm’s guidance before undertaking routine activities, including hiring consultants and employees.

More here.

Michigan Man Pleads Guilty to Hiring N.J. Teen to Conduct Computer Attacks

An AP newswire article, via The Globe and Mail, reports that:

A 19-year-old Michigan man who ran a Web business selling retro sports jerseys and recruited a New Jersey teen to carry out computer attacks against competitors pleaded guilty Wednesday to a federal conspiracy charge.

Jason Salah Arabo of Southfield, Mich., faces up to five years in federal prison and a fine of up to $250,000 (U.S.). Sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 25.

Federal authorities said that in 2004 Arabo, who ran Web-based companies and, used on-line instant message conversations to recruit Edison's Jasmine Singh, who was 16 at the time, to electronically bombard other throwback jersey websites — including New Jersey-based

More here.

Microsoft's Security Disclosures Come Under Fire

Ryan Naraine writes on eWeek:

Is Microsoft silently fixing security vulnerabilities and deliberately obfuscating details about patches in its monthly security bulletins?

Matthew Murphy, a security researcher who has worked closely with the MSRC (Microsoft Security Response Center) in the past, is accusing the software maker of "misleading" customers by not clearly spelling out exactly what is being patched in the MS06-015 bulletin released on April 11.

That bulletin, rated "critical," contained patches for a remote code execution hole in Windows Explorer, the embedded file manager that lets Windows users view and manage drives, folders and files.

However, as Murphy found out when scouring through the fine print in the bulletin, the update also addressed what Microsoft described as a "publicly disclosed variation" of a flaw that was reported in May 2004 (CVE-2004-2289.)

More here.

Music Downloads Taxable in 15 States

Via ABC Technology News.

This year Apple celebrated the one billionth music download from its industry-dominant iTunes online music store.

The service allows audiophiles to pick from thousands of individual songs and albums for 99 cents a song — tax free, right?

Not so fast. In 15 states plus Washington, D.C., those iTunes' downloads are taxable.

Come Tax Day, filers are supposed to claim them under something called a use tax, which is applied to out-of-state purchases.

More here.

Brooklyn Students Arrested During Protest for Cellphones

An AP newswire article, via The Globe and Mail, reports that:

A protest by teenage students upset with slow security procedures and a ban on cellphones at their schools resulted in five arrests on Wednesday.

About 150 Brooklyn students walked out of their classes early and rallied for an hour outside the Secondary Schools for Law, Research and Journalism starting around 1 p.m., said the law school's principal, Larry Woodbridge.

Many of the students jumped up and down on the sidewalk, waved signs and chanted, "We want cellphones!" They said it's unfair they're not allowed to take their property to school and they need the cellphones for emergencies.

More here.

Virginia Governor Signs Wireless Flat-Tax Legislation

Via RCR Wireless News.

Virginia Gov. Timothy Kaine (D) signed into law landmark legislation creating the nation’s first flat tax on wireless and other communications services in the state.

The legislation, championed by Del. Samuel Nixon (R), caps the communications tax at 5 percent. The mobile-phone industry, facing what it considers discriminatory state and local taxes throughout the nation, supports the flat-tax approach.

More here.

The Real First Man In Space: Joe Kittinger

Joseph Kittinger's record-breaking skydive.
Image source: Wikipedia

Via CBS News.

Few people know it, but the first man in space wasn't an astronaut. It was test pilot Joe Kittinger.

In 1960, the little-known pioneer was part of an U.S. Air Force project called Excelsior, which was designed to test the effects of space on human beings — and, more important, to determine whether an astronaut could survive an aborted mission, even at 20 miles above the earth.

Kittinger had the right stuff. He traveled all the way into space via balloon — then jumped out.

More here.

TSA Officer Charged in Boy's Kidnap Attempt


Authorities in Idaho say they aren’t sure of the true identity of a Transportation Security Administration officer charged with attempting to kidnap a 10-year-old boy because they found personal identification documents — including Social Security numbers — for five separate individuals in his possession.

KTVB-TV, NBC’s Boise affiliate, reported that the TSA officer was charged with second-degree kidnapping Tuesday under the name of Robert Joe Harrison Jr. Fifth District Magistrate Ted Israel set bail at $500,000.

More here.

UK: Court Rules That eMail Address is Not a Signature


A High Court judge has ruled that the presence of a sender's email address in the header of an email does not amount to a signature – although a typed name would have sufficed to form a binding contract.

Portuguese bed maker J Pereira Fernandes S.A. (JPF) sought to wind-up a British retailer, Bedcare (UK) Ltd over unpaid debts. It received an email, appearing to come from Bedcare's director, Nilesh Metha, offering a personal guarantee of £25,000 if JPF agreed to adjourn the hearing for seven days. It also proposed a schedule for repaying the debt over six-months and offered a payment to account of £5,000.

JPF said that a telephone call followed in which the offer was accepted. But no money changed hands and documents that JPF sent to Metha were not returned. Bedcare was subsequently wound up.

More here.

Political Toon: Easy to Predict

Click for larger image.

One Man's First Hand Account of Being Put Through Hell by the RIAA

Via The Recording Industry vs. The People.

I am being sued by the RIAA for copyright infringement, and the case has been going on for the past 2 years.

So far they have deposed all 5 of my children, and my wife, and myself. I also had to fill out admissions and interrogatory answers twice so far and they are still not satisfied with my answers. Most of them I answered that I did not know. I did not know, and was completely unaware of whatever the RIAA is claiming happened. My responses were honest, but that was not good enough for them.

I am defending myself in this case because I can't afford a lawyer, and it's hard for me to understand all of the paperwork and the rules of the court. The RIAA is on its 6th different group of lawyers. It seems like they are bottom feeders.

More here.

Mark Cuban Bails From IceRocket

Via Valleywag.

He's not completely jumping ship, but the dot-com billionaire is selling his blog search engine, IceRocket, leaving his co-owner the CEO spot. Did Mark Cuban realize his property couldn't overthrow Technorati, the tiny giant of blog search?

No word yet on the price, but you can bet it's nothing like Cuban's Bubble 1.0 sale of to Yahoo, which earned him a few billion (enough to buy the Mavericks and start publicly arguing with Donald Trump) just before the market tanked. In fact, at this rate, doesn't Mark earn more money eating potato chips and watching his mutual funds accrue than wasting energy on mere million-dollar deals?

More here.

Gapingvoid: An Absence of Fear

Via Enjoy!

Google Opens Calendar Beta

Nate Mook writes on BetaNews:

Google late Wednesday opened up its much-anticipated Calendar service to the public in beta form, complete with Gmail integration and SMS notifications. Code-named CL2, the free service enables users to quickly add events and reminders, send invitations and share their calendar with others.

Google Calendar can import events directly from Microsoft Outlook and Yahoo! Calendar, in addition to supporting calendar standards to view schedules on any device supporting iCal or XML files. Gmail will also recognize events mentioned in an e-mail to quickly add them to Google Calendar.

More here.

Internet (NTP) Clocks Suffering Data Deluge

Mark Ward writes for The BBC:

Home network hardware supplier D-Link has been accused of harming the net's ability to tell the time accurately.

Detective work has found that many D-Link routers, switches and wireless access points are bombarding some net time servers with huge amounts of data.

Time servers help many net functions run smoothly. For instance they have a role in deciding who made the last bid in eBay auctions.

D-Link is now taking action after protests from time server overseers.

More here.

Police Officer Charged with Cyberstalking

An AP newswire article, via The Globe and Mail, reports that:

A Long Island police officer has been charged with hacking into the e-mail account of a woman he met through an on-line dating service and posing as her in messages sent to himself and to other men.

Michael Valentine, 28, of Lake Grove, was arraigned Monday on a 197-count indictment that included charges of stalking, computer trespassing, official misconduct and tampering with evidence. He pleaded not guilty to the charges.

Valentine met the woman on in November and dated her for about six weeks before she broke up with him, Suffolk County District Attorney Thomas Spota said.

The officer went into the woman's e-mail account and sent himself a message threatening that her friends would "come out of the bushes with a baseball bat and beat your brains in," prosecutors said.

More here.

User Friendly: Stinky Dot EU


Click for larger image.

Terrorists' Web Chatter Shows Concern About Internet Privacy

Yuki Noguchi and Sara Kehaulani Goo write in The Washington Post:

Terrorist groups, which for years have used the Internet and its various tools to organize and communicate, are paying more attention to addressing security and privacy concerns similar to those of other Web users, counterterrorism experts say.

The Internet has long been a convenient gathering place for radical Islamists advocating violence against Western influences, known as jihadists. Through online chat, e-mail and Web postings, communities of people have relied on one another for advice, political debate, even movie reviews and biographical information on suicide bombers and religious leaders.

Recently, postings on jihadist Web sites have expressed increasing concern about spyware, password protection, and surveillance on chat rooms and instant-messaging systems.

One forum recently posted a guide for Internet safety and anonymity on the Internet, advising readers of ways to circumvent hackers or government officials.

More here.

Is The Pentagon Creating a Secret Police Force?

Mark Hosenball writes in Newsweek:

A threatened turf grab by a controversial Pentagon intelligence unit is causing concern among both privacy experts and some of the Defense Department’s own personnel.

An informal panel of senior Pentagon officials has been holding a series of unannounced private meetings during the past several weeks about how to proceed with a possible merger between the Counterintelligence Field Activity (CIFA), a post-9/11 Pentagon creation that has been accused of domestic spying, and the Defense Security Service (DSS), a well-established older agency responsible for inspecting the security arrangements of defense contractors.

DSS also maintains millions of confidential files containing the results of background investigations on defense contractors’ employees.

More here.

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

13 April 1743: Happy Birthday, Thomas Jefferson


Portrait of Thomas Jefferson by Rembrandt Peale, 1800.
Image source: Wikipedia

Via The History Channel Online.

Future President Thomas Jefferson, drafter of the Declaration of Independence, the nation’s preeminent political theorist and a plantation owner who sired children with one of his slaves, is born on this day in 1743.

Historian and biographer Joseph Ellis has called Jefferson, who had a monumental role in shaping American politics, the “American sphinx” for his enigmatic character. Since his terms in office, presidents and politicians from both ends of the political spectrum have borrowed from Jefferson’s political philosophy in an attempt to link their own leadership with this most influential and admired founding father.

More here.

Russian Students Win Programming Contest

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

A team of three students from Russia proved their brainy prowess Wednesday, winning an academic competition in which they had just five hours to solve perplexing computing puzzles such as how to connect gears of a clock when given a specific shaft speed.

"I am pleased with our performance today. It feels pretty good," Igor Kulkin, 21, said after his team from Saratova State University won the 2006 Association for Computing Machinery's International Collegiate Programming Contest.

Working in teams of three, contestants in the 30th annual event had five hours to solve 10 problems that would ordinarily take months to complete. Saratova led the pack by solving six of them in the allotted time.

More here.

MetroFi Selected to Operate Portland Wi-Fi Network

Via Reuters.

MetroFi Inc. said on Wednesday it was selected by the city of Portland, Oregon, to design and operate a citywide Wi-Fi network that will provide free wireless Internet access and improved public services.

MetroFi said the Portland system will be built at no cost to the city, which expects to save millions of dollars in productivity and wireless Internet service fees by using the network.

More here.

MySpace Page Puts Teacher Back in Jail

Pamela Rogers is escorted from a police car Tuesday in McMinnville, Tenn.,
for booking at the Warren County Jail following her arrest.

Image source: MSNBC / Duane Sherrill / The Southern Standard

An AP newswire article, via MSNBC, reports that:

A former elementary school teacher who spent six months in jail for having sex with a 13-year-old student was arrested again, this time for violating probation by apparently communicating with the victim.

Pamela Rogers, 28, was arrested Tuesday and released on $10,000 bond. A judge Wednesday ordered her to appear at a July 12 hearing.

Under terms of the plea deal, she was, among other things, ordered not to contact the victim or his family and not to use the Internet.

Authorities said she violated probation by establishing a Web page on the online social networking hub Her page featured a blog that included what authorities said was communication between Rogers and the victim's 17-year-old sister.

More here.

U. Waterloo: Dana Porter All Lit Up For Exams


Thanks to a pointer over on Boing Boing.

Jeffrey Aho writes on Student Life Centre (A website about the University of Waterloo):

You can really tell when exams hit this campus. This must have taken quite a lot of effort and time!

Yahoo! Pressured Over China Cooperation

Declan McCullagh writes on C|Net News:

Yahoo's long-running defense of its Chinese operations, which have been criticized for close cooperation with the country's police agencies, took an unusual twist this week in a confrontation at the company's headquarters.

Julien Pain of Reporters Without Borders, a free speech advocacy organization, stopped by Yahoo's San Jose, Calif., headquarters on Monday accompanied by a film crew from ABC World News Tonight. In a moment reminiscent of Michael Moore's "Bowling for Columbine," Pain asked to meet with company executives--but Yahoo sent out its security guards instead.

Eventually, after tense negotiations accompanied by threats of having him arrested by police for trespassing, Yahoo relented and arranged a meeting with two unnamed executives. "They were just trying to handle some PR crisis," Pain told CNET afterward. "It's a PR crisis? No, it's a human rights crisis."

More here.

Rice Scientists Attach Motor to Single-Molecule Car

The car’s light-powered motor is attached mid-chassis.
When struck by light, it rotates in one direction, pushing the car along like a paddlewheel.

Image source: / Takashi Sasaki / Rice University


In follow-on work to last year's groundbreaking invention of the world's first single-molecule car, chemists at Rice University have produced the first motorized version of their tiny nanocar. The research is published in the April 13 issue of the journal Organic Letters.

"We want to construct things from the bottom up, one molecule at a time, in much the same way that biological cells use enzymes to assemble proteins and other supermolecules," said lead researcher James M. Tour, the Chao Professor of Chemistry, professor of mechanical engineering and materials science and professor of computer science.

More here.

FIFA Criticizes World Cup Data Gathering

John Blau writes on InfoWorld:

Regardless of the outcome of the World Cup soccer tournament in Germany several weeks away, the games already have their place in history: Never before have fans attending an event organized by the Fédération Internationale de Football Association (FIFA) been required to provide so much information about themselves that can be accessed so quickly.

More than 3.5 million tickets will be sold with an embedded RFID (radio frequency identification) chip containing identification information, to be checked against a database as fans pass through entrance gates at all 12 stadiums in June.

It's the first World Cup tournament to use RFID technology to identify cardholders, and it's not likely to be the last. But, if one senior FIFA official has his way, the amount of personal information required of fans -- all of which is quickly identifiable with the help of RFID -- will be kept to a minimum.

More here.

Why Yahoo! Can't Deliver Email

Via eMail Battles.

The web is alive with complaints from Yahoo Mail account holders who didn't get mail, and legitimate senders whose mail never was delivered. Everybody seems to know it happens, but nobody ever figured out why... until now.

After Email Battles mapped, analyzed and charted Yahoo Mail's mail servers, it's easy to see why the wealthy company wants to charge for certified sender services. It apparently needs the money for a new mail server.

More here.

The Onion: MIT Fraternity Accused Of Robot Hazing

AMBLE5, top, and Bradbury, bottom, two of the pledgebots victimized
in the latest on-campus incident of robo-hazing.

Image source: The Onion

Via The Onion, America's Finest News Source.

Several members of the Massachusetts Institute of Technology chapter of the Theta Tau fraternity are in campus-police custody today following a brutal hazing incident in which one robot remains missing and two others are in critical condition with extensive circuitry and servo-motor injuries, sources revealed Monday.

The robots, experimental prototypes recently devised at MIT's prestigious Artificial Intelligence Laboratory, were participating in an apparent initiation exercise that police say involved butyl alcohol and compressed air.

According to eyewitnesses, the three robots were ripped from their chargers at the Theta Tau chapter house at 3 a.m. Tuesday. One, a titanium-alloy hexapod approximately 13 inches in diameter, was reportedly forced to climb stairs built at a grade too steep for its small hinged legs, causing six of its pneumatic actuators to short out. A second robot, a biped from MIT's Leg Laboratory, was allegedly forced to replicate "the same humiliating hopping algorithm" 200,000 times, and is currently in critical condition in the laboratory's emergency-repair room.

The third robot, a tread-driven 38-inch-tall rover, is feared drowned after being forced to consume over 40 terabytes of data and then swim across the Charles River with a burning candle stuck in its rear port.

More here.

Chinese Internet Dissident Protests Innocence During Subversion Trial

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

Chinese dissident Li Jianping insisted he had committed no crime by posting pro-democracy essays on the Internet, as he went on trial for subversion, according to his lawyer.

"Li Jianping put forward his own defense and said his actions of writing essays and posting them on the Internet did not constitute the crime of inciting the subversion of state power," lawyer Zhang Xingshui told AFP.

Zhang also told the court that Li had the right to air his thoughts in accordance with freedom of speech clauses in the state constitution.

More here.

Juniper Faces Possible Siemens Shift

Craig Matsumoto writes on Light Reading:

Little things keep mounting up against Juniper Networks Inc. This time the problem is with reseller Siemens AG.

Analyst Tim Daubenspeck of Pacific Crest Equity Partners Inc. points out that in recent presentations at shows -- including CeBit -- Siemens has indicated it's shifting its IPTV philosophy to a distributed model, one that uses routers and switches rather than a B-RAS system. That means Juniper's E-series boxes might end up with a smaller share of Siemens contracts.

More here.

Australia: Telstra Threat Kills Optus Ads

An AAP newswire article, via Australian IT, reports that:

Optus has been forced to pull its latest broadband advertising campaign after rival Telstra claimed it was misleading and threatened legal action.

The two parties reached an agreement after private discussions this morning and appeared briefly before the Federal Court in Melbourne late today to report that the matter had been settled.

Telstra had planned to allege that Optus' advertisements for its $19.95 a month ADSL service breached the Trade Practices Act on five counts.

More here.

Australia: Telstra, Optus Wait on Porn Filters

James Riley and Andrew Colley write on Australian IT:

Australia's two largest internet service providers have yet to commit to the Tasmania-wide trial of porn filtering technology being championed by Liberal backbencher Senator Guy Barnett.

Unhappy with government efforts to limit the amount of pornography available to children online, Senator Guy Barnett has set up his own internet filtering trial in Tasmania to test its effectiveness in blocking X-rated content.

Two content filtering companies had offered to trial free of charge the removal of pornography and extreme violence from internet feeds across Tasmania for three months, Senator Barnett said.

Sydney-based Internet Sheriff Technology and US-based Rulespace will offer the free filtering service for three months from the middle of the year.

More here.

AT&T Asks Judge to Order Documents Alleging Wiretaps Returned

Elise Ackerman writes in The Mercury News:

Attorneys for AT&T have asked a federal judge to order a San Francisco civil liberties group to return ``highly confidential'' documents that allegedly show that the telecommunications giant provided detailed records of millions of its customers to a government intelligence agency.

In documents filed on Monday, AT&T's attorneys also asked Judge Vaughn Walker to order the Electronic Frontier Foundation to refrain from referencing the documents in its lawsuit.

The EFF filed a lawsuit against AT&T in January alleging that AT&T had collaborated with the National Security Agency in a ``massive and illegal program to wiretap and data-mine Americans' communications.''

Last week, the group filed additional documents to the federal court in San Francisco totaling more than 140 pages. The documents purportedly provide evidence of the technology that AT&T had used to conduct surveillance for the NSA.

The documents, which included a sworn declaration from retired AT&T technician Mark Klein and confidential company documents, were voluntarily placed under seal by the group pending a decision by the judge to make them public.

More here.

Distractions: ATM Piggy Bank

Image source: OhGizmo!

Andrew Liszewski writes on OhGizmo!:

The ATM Bank accepts real coins and paper money VIA an authentic electronic bill feeder. (Operates with U.S. currency only.) It dispenses cash like a real ATM does and continually tracks deposits and withdrawls keeping a running total of your savings. You can even limit who can access your cash with a secret PIN number.

However since your ability to make transactions is pretty much dependent on the unit’s 3 AA batteries you might want to think about keeping a fresh set always on hand.

The ATM Bank is available from the Discovery Channel Store for $39.95.

More here.

TiVo, DirecTV Extend Relationship for 3 Years

A Reuters newswire article, via MSNBC, reports that:

TiVo Inc. and DirecTV Group Inc. Wednesday said they would extend their service and support agreement for three years, sending TiVo's shares up 9 percent in premarket trading.

Satellite TV broadcaster DirecTV said last August that it would no longer market TiVo's digital video recorders and would use its own system made by News Corp.-controlled NDS Group Plc.

While DirecTV still will not be marketing TiVo, the two companies extended a deal under which customers can receive TiVo through DirecTV. Maintenance and support for the service will be provided by TiVo, which would have been under no obligation to service DirecTV customers without an extension to the agreement, due to expire in 2007.

More here.

FCC Tightens Rules for Airwave Auction

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

Under new rules designed to increase competitive bidding, companies that want to sell such wireless services as high-speed Internet and video will be able to buy a big chunk of airwaves at a government auction.

The Federal Communications Commission on Wednesday voted to require anonymous bidding at the June 29 auction to prevent companies from colluding to keep out competitors and to drive prices down. Bidding would be open, though, if the FCC determines that enough companies are seeking licenses to keep the auction competitive.

More here.

Politcial Toon: The Other Border

Click for larger image.

Bizarre Gadget of the Day: The FlashBag

Image source: Random Good Stuff

Via Random Good Stuff.

From the wish-I'd-thought-of-that department: the Flashbag.

It's a standard USB flash drive that has a tiny pump in it that inflates when you load it with data. So if your drive is full of stuff, it blows up like a balloon, but if it's empty it remains flat and rectangular.

It'll stay inflated even when powered down, so you'll be able to estimate how many more MP3s you can leech from your friend's computer just by taking a gander.

Border Security System Left Open

Kevin Poulsen writes on Wired News:

A computer failure that hobbled border-screening systems at airports across the country last August occurred after Homeland Security officials deliberately held back a security patch that would have protected the sensitive computers from a virus then sweeping the internet, according to documents obtained by Wired News.

The documents raise new questions about the $400 million US-VISIT program, a 2-year-old system aimed at securing the border from terrorists by gathering biometric information from visiting foreign nationals and comparing it against government watch lists.

The Aug. 18 computer failure led to long lines at international airports in Los Angeles, San Francisco, Miami and elsewhere, while U.S. Customs and Border Protection, or CBP, officials processed foreign visitors by hand, or in some cases used backup computers, according to contemporaneous press reports.

More here.

More 'No-Fly' List Idiocy: Minnesota Marine Reservist Detained as 'Possible Terrorist'

An AP newswire article, via MSNBC, reports that:

A Minnesota reservist who spent the past eight months in Iraq was told he couldn't board a plane to Minneapolis because his name appeared on a "no-fly" list as a possible terrorist.

Marine Staff Sgt. Daniel Brown, who was in uniform and returning from the war with 26 other Marine military police reservists, was delayed briefly in Los Angeles until the issue was cleared up.

More here.

New 'Stealth' TV Ads Assailed

Via CBS News.

New technology may change the way TV does business.

It's called virtual product placement and, reports CBS News correspondent Cynthia Bowers, it can add just about anything to shows that already exist.

The value of product placement was drummed home in 1982, when the loveable space creature "ET" helped put Reese's Pieces on the map.

But now, says Bowers, the time-honored advertising tradition of putting brand-name products into scenes in movies or TV shows is being facilitated by hi-tech, bringing it to a new level.

More here.

Hong Kong: Domestic Surveillance No Big Deal?

George Wehrfritz writes in Newsweek:

Hong Kong, in all its money-worshipping glory, is utterly unlike the grim dictatorship George Orwell conjured up in his chilling novel "1984." Yet there is one similarity: the city's law enforcement agencies, legal experts warn, have embraced covert surveillance with the zeal of Orwell's all-seeing Thought Police.

Until a few months ago, in fact, Hong Kong cops, corruption-busters, immigration officers and customs agents routinely monitored cell-phone signals, read e-mail and bugged offices, homes and cars without judicial oversight. Then a judge declared that wiretaps and electronic surveillance lacked a legal basis under the city's mini-constitution, the Basic Law—triggering a new privacy debate.

More here.