Saturday, May 06, 2006

7 May 1915: RMS Lusitania Sunk by German U-Boat


RMS Mauretania, the Lusitania's sister ship.
Image source: Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia.

The RMS Lusitania was an ocean liner of the British, under ownership of the Cunard Steamship Lines . Built by John Brown and Company of Clydebank, Scotland, and launched on June 6, 1906, she was the prototype of her class. She was also the sister ship of RMS Mauretania, and both were built to compete with the fast German liners of the time. As such, Lusitania held the Blue Riband a number of times, notably in 1907.

The ship was torpedoed and sunk by a German U-Boat on May 7, 1915, on her 202nd crossing of the Atlantic Ocean. The incident played a role in the United States' entry into World War I on April 17, 1917. President of the United States Woodrow Wilson officially promised to keep the US out of the war, but the sinking of the ship provided some justification for the escalation of U.S. involvement. If the ship had been carrying munitions, as the Germans claimed, his claim that the Lusitania was a wrongful victim in the attack would have been false.

More here.

Online Classifieds: The Nipicking Nation

Stephanie Rosenbloom writes in The News York Times:

They are single, gay, straight, biracial, conservative, liberal and tattooed — and they have as many preferences for a potential roommate as an online dater has for a potential lover. They are bankers, fetishists, self-declared nerds and drug users. They have old wounds and new hopes, and are willing to barter their cooking and sexual expertise for free or discounted rent.

They are all seeking and selling housing on, the electronic listing service with sites in all 50 states and more than 200 worldwide. And because users pay nothing (for now) and are able to go on at length about who they are and what they want, their postings provide a sociological window into housing trends and desires across the country, from the neon cityscape of the Las Vegas Strip to the wheat fields of Wichita, Kan.

More here.

Hacker Gary McKinnon Fears 'UFO Cover-Up'

Via The BBC.

In 2002, Gary McKinnon was arrested by the UK's national high-tech crime unit, after being accused of hacking into NASA and the US military computer networks.

He says he spent two years looking for photographic evidence of alien spacecraft and advanced power technology.

America now wants to put him on trial, and if tried there he could face 60 years behind bars.

Banned from using the internet, Gary spoke to Click presenter Spencer Kelly to tell his side of the story, ahead of his extradition hearing on Wednesday, 10 May.

More here.

Hackers Spamvertise World Cup Wallchart Trojan

John Leyden writes on The Register:

A Trojan horse that poses as a World Cup wallchart has begun circulating on the net. The Haxdoor-IN Trojan horse is been spamvertised in messages, written in German, that purport a program that will allow fans to keep tab on football teams participating in next month's eagerly anticipated tournament.

Windows users who follow links in these messages and download the software will wind up with infected PCs. Net security firm Sophos says all the spam emails promoting downloads of the malware it has seen so far have been written in German. "There is no reason to believe that hackers will not switch to using other languages to increase their pool of potential victims," it warns.

More here.

NYC Fires Employee for Surfing the Web

I smell a lawsuit.

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

Despite a judge's recommendation that he only receive a reprimand, a city worker accused of disregarding warnings to stay off the Internet at work has been fired.

The office computer of Toquir Choudhri, a 14-year veteran of the Department of Education, had been used to visit news and travel Web sites.

Last month, Administrative Law Judge John Spooner ruled that surfing the Web at work is equivalent to reading a newspaper or talking on the phone.

He recommended the lightest possible punishment for Choudhri. Schools Chancellor Joel Klein disagreed.

More here.

Friday, May 05, 2006

6 May 1996: The Body of Former CIA Director William Colby is Found


Midnight Canoeist, William Colby.
Image soutce:

Given the fact that Porter Goss resigned from his post as CIA Director yesterday amid rumors of scandal, the mention of William Colby's unfortunate demise seems all the more appropriate, given the proximity in the closeness in nature of the calendar dates.


Via Wikipedia.

On April 27, 1996, Colby died in an apparent boating accident near his home in Rock Point, Maryland. He reportedly did not mention any canoeing plans to his wife, nor was it normal for him to go boating at night.

Colby's body was eventually found, underwater, on May 6, 1996. The lifevest his friends said he usually wore was missing. The body was found 20 yards from the canoe, after the area had been thoroughly searched multiple times. The subsequent inquest found that he died from drowning and hypothermia after collapsing from a heart attack or stroke and falling out of his canoe.

More here.

Cingular Service Spotty in Central Texas After Storms

Tim Trentham writes on MetroBlogging Austin:

My wife and I haven't been able to call in or out on our cell phones for most of the afternoon and evening. The last incoming call I got was at 3:11. Tech support says there's something wrong, but can't say what or when it'll be fixed. On top of that, of course, our home phone is also out because of last night's storm. I think the power going on and off fried the telephone adapter for our VOIP service. This'll be the second one we've had to replace if I ever get cell phone service back long enough to call tech support and order one.

Isn't technology awesome?


Update: I can vouch for that -- my Cingular service is hosed, too. Trying to make a call at this hour results is what can best be described as a "cellular fast busy" -- network busy or unavailable.

The EULA For The Internet

I love it.

Props to Mike Masnick over on

Business is unpredictable and unsafe. The Internet is dangerous. Many blogs have been written about these dangers, and there's no way we can list them all here. Read the blogs. The Internet is covered in slippery slopes with loose, slippery and unpredictable footing. The RIAA can make matters worse. Patent trolls are everywhere. You may fall, be spammed or suffer a DOS attack. There are hidden viruses and worms. You could break your computer.

There is wild code, which may be vicious, poisonous or carriers of dread malware. These include viruses and worms. E-mail can be poisonous as well. We don't do anything to protect you from any of this. We do not inspect, supervise or maintain the Internet, blogosphere, ISP’s or other features, natural or otherwise.

More here.

Microsoft Awarded 'Super Cookie' Patent

Andy Patrizio writes on

A new Microsoft patent is causing a little heartburn in some quarters, but the patent for a so-called "super cookie," may have come so long after Microsoft's application that it's been superceded by newer technologies.

U.S. Patent 7,039,699, or '699, will provide developers with a permanent cookie that can contain bits, counters, dates and strings and can be accessed via an API that can be called from JavaScript, ASP and VBScript.

It's what can be done with the cookie that has some people sensing an invasion of privacy.

More here.

NIST Issues Security Performance Metrics Draft

Wade-Hahn Chan writes on

The National Institute of Standards and Technology’s Computer Security Division has released the initial draft for Special Publication 800-80, which involves developing metrics for information security programs.

Called the “Guide for Developing Performance Metrics for Information Security,” it links information security performance with overall agency performance. The metrics would allow agencies to measure vulnerabilities and strengths in their information security.

The 43-page draft covers 17 security controls that SP 800-53 recommended for agencies to use to protect their information systems. To facilitate implantation of performance metrics, SP 800-80 also includes templates, one for each of the security control families in SP 800-53.

Public comments on the draft can be submitted via e-mail to until June 19.

More here.

Cisco, The Borg, And The Future of Networking

Sean Michael Kerner writes on

After spending the better part of a week in Vegas looking at the latest and greatest that networking vendors have to offer at the Interop 2006 conference, I've come to a few conclusions.

First, the world of networking and Las Vegas are two of a kind when it comes to indulging in excess. Secondly Cisco is the Borg (of "Star Trek" fame).

Allow me to explain.

More here.

NOAA Awards High-Performance Computing Contract

Mary Mosquera writes on

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration today awarded Raytheon Co. a contract today worth up to $368 million for high-performance computing resources to support advances in NOAA's environmental modeling capabilities.

For the first time, NOAA is procuring services for all its applied research and development high-performance computing requirements across the agency to achieve economies of scale but will provide flexibility in the resulting services. NOAA is an agency of the Commerce Department.

The contract with Raytheon Information Systems of Upper Marlboro, Md., consists of a three-year base period, a four-year option period and a one-year option to provide for contract transition. NOAA expects initial delivery of the distributed high-performance computing system in October. The total ceiling value of the contract inclusive of all options is $368 million.

More here.

Blue Frog Breaks 2005 Promise of No Innocent Victims

Via eMail Battles.

In its "Gunfight at the OK Corral" with a spammer, controversial Blue Frog maker, Blue Security, was shot out of the saddle, completely losing its own website to a denial of service attack. In addition, Blue Frog client email addresses were reportedly exposed, and 10 million non-combatants in Typepad's blogging community assumed room temperature for at least twelve hours.

So what did Blue Frog mean when it assured skeptical experts that there would be no innocent victims?

More here.

Companies Protest Army's ITES-2S Contract

Jason Miller writes on

Five companies have protested the Army’s recent $20 billion Information Technology Enterprise Solutions-2 Services contract award.

Dean Sprague, spokesman for the Army’s Program Executive Office, Enterprise Information Systems, said BAE Systems North America Inc. of Rockville, Md., Multimax of Largo, Md., NCI Information Systems of Reston, Va., Northrop Grumman Corp. and Pragmatics Inc. of McLean, Va., had filed protests with the Government Accountability Office. GAO said it will rule on the matter by Aug. 11.

More here.

VoIP Fees Set to Rise with Regulation on the Horizon

Ephraim Schwartz writes on InfoWorld:

With the deadline for voice over IP (VoIP) carriers to comply with the FCC Communications Assistance for Law Enforcement Act [CALEA] less than a year away, VoIP vendors are beginning to roll out their wire tap technology.

But even as CALEA compliance gets underway, the bigger question remains: Will VoIP providers be subject to additional government telecommunications regulations?

This week, Sonus Networks announced a partnership with Verint Systems to provide VoIP carriers with the technology for lawful intercept, otherwise known as wiretapping.

Sonus IP Multimedia Subsystem VoIP middleware will incorporate Verint's Star-Gate Communications Interception Solution.

More here.

The Planet, EV1Servers Are Acquired by GI Partners

Via Netcraft.

The investment firm GI Partners has purchased a controlling interest in The Planet and EV1Servers, two of the industry's largest dedicated hosting specialists, according to industry sources. The new owner has lengthy experience in the hosting and data center business.

The Planet and EV1Servers are the fourth and seventh-largest hosting providers in the world, according to Netcraft's Hosting Provider Switching Analysis, and the top two dedicated hosting specialists. Each experienced explosive growth during the past three years, driven by the surging popularity of dedicated servers. The Planet, which is headquartered in Dallas, hosts 896K active sites and 1.3 million hostnames, while Houston-based EV1Servers is home to 685K active sites and 1.2 million hostnames.

Additional details of the deals are expected to be announced early next week by GI Partners. The Planet and EV1Servers will maintain independent operations and identities but may operate with a consolidated balance sheet, according to industry sources, who said customers are unlikely to see any immediate changes.

More here.

NSF Survey: Industry Stiffing Tech R&D on Campus

Via NetworkWorld.

Industry hasn't been showing technology researchers across U.S. college campuses nearly as much love as the federal government, according to a new National Science Foundation study.

Federal government spending on science and engineering R&D at campuses rose 10.7% from 2003 to $27.4 billion in 2004, whereas spending from private industry fell 2.6% between 2003 to 2004. Industry invested $2.1 billion in 2004, the third straight year in which its investments in campus R&D tumbled.

However, the NSF notes that industry does fund the bulk of R&D in the United States through its own labs. (The NSF has not yet compiled 2005 figures.)

More here.

Pixar Shareholders Approve Takeover

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

Shareholders of Pixar Animation Studios Inc. Friday voted to approve the company's acquisition by The Walt Disney Co. for $7.4-billion in stock.

The vote makes Pixar a wholly owned subsidiary of Disney and makes Pixar Chief Executive Steve Jobs Disney's single largest shareholder with about a 7 per cent stake.

More here.

Nevada Launching Web Site for Canada Drug Imports

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

Over objections by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration, Nevadans will be able to buy prescription drugs from Canada over the Internet starting next week, a spokesman for Gov. Kenny Guinn said on Friday.

"Monday is the anointed day," said Steve George, a spokesman for the Republican governor, referring to when a state Web site linking consumers to pharmacies in Canada goes into operation.

Nevada regulators gave the Web site their final blessing on Thursday after weighing a review of the program by the state attorney general, who had been skeptical about the measure passed by state lawmakers last year.

More here.

Verizon Dramatically Cuts Business DSL Rates

Anne Broahe writes on the C|Net Broadband Blog:

Verizon on Friday said it's slashing prices for its highest-capacity business DSL service.

For lines with speeds of up to 7.1 Mbps downstream and 768 Kbps upstream and dynamic IP addressing, the company more than halved the monthly charge, cutting it from $204.95 to $79.95.

The monthly fee for identical speeds with static IP addressing dropped from $234.95 to $149.95 per month.

The announcement comes a little more than two weeks after Verizon revealed 20 percent rate hikes on its consumer 768 Kbps DSL service, raising those monthly fees from $14.95 to $17.95.

More here.

Renesys: Sprint Leads Global IP Transit

Ray Le Maistre writes on Light Reading:

Sprint Nextel Corp. has more transit relationships globally than any other international IP network operator, according to new statistics for the first quarter of 2006 from Internet intelligence firm Renesys Corp.

Using its home-grown technology that monitors the routing tables of the world's advertised IP networks, Renesys has compiled a Top 10 table of carriers ranked by the number of direct or indirect transit relationships they have.

Sprint is top of the pile, followed by Level 3 Communications Inc. and Verizon Business -- courtesy of the UUNet international IP network it now owns following its acquisition of MCI.

More here.

Wells Fargo Warns of Possible Data Theft

It must be Friday...

A Reuters newswire article, via MSNBC, reports that:

Wells Fargo & Co., the second-largest U.S. mortgage lender, Friday said a computer containing confidential data about mortgage customers and prospective customers is missing and may have been stolen.

San Francisco-based Wells Fargo, which is also the No. 5 U.S. bank and serves more than 23 million customers, said a "global express shipping company" had been delivering the computer from one of the bank's facilities to another.

The missing data include names, addresses, Social Security numbers and mortgage loan deposit numbers. Wells Fargo said there is no indication that anyone has misused the data, or accessed the data without authorization.

More here.

Republican Politico Endorses Data Retention

Declan McCullagh writes on C|Net News:

A key Republican in the U.S. House of Representatives plans to find some way to force Internet providers to keep records of their customers' activities, an aide said Friday.

An aide said Rep. Joe Barton of Texas, who chairs the House committee responsible for writing Internet and telecommunications law, has pledged to work on legislation related to mandatory data retention--a concept recently endorsed by the Bush administration as a way to crack down on child pornographers.

"We have made a commitment with the congresswoman to address that issue," David Cavicke, general counsel to the House Energy and Commerce Committee, said at the Computers, Freedom and Privacy conference here. Cavicke was referring to Rep. Diana DeGette, a Colorado Democrat, who has drafted legislation making it unlawful for an Internet provider to delete certain types of customer information.

In response to a question from CNET, Cavicke said he didn't know what form the legislation will take--whether, that is, it'll be a standalone bill or an amendment to a much broader proposal to rewrite telecommunications laws.

More here.

Valleywag: Google Doesn't Like Mexicans

Valleywag sure can be entertaining:

Yahoo gets festive today for Cinco de Mayo, while Google snubs the Mexican holiday for the seventh year running:

Olé, Olé, the Fifth of May.

Nothing on the American site...

...or on Google Mexico. ¿Dónde está el amor, Google?

This despite Google's previous celebration of Canada Day, the Chinese New Year, the Persian New Year, Bastille Day, Korean Liberation Day, Swiss National Day, and St. George's Day....

All images, etc. from Valleywag, here. Enjoy!

France Telecom Cuts UK Staff

Ray Le Maistre writes on Light Reading:

France Telecom SA is cutting between 1,800 and 2,000 jobs in the U.K. as it converges its British mobile and broadband businesses, Orange UK and Wanadoo UK, into a single unit under the Orange brand.

The cull is part of a broader headcount reduction program unveiled in February in its 2005 annual report. Then, France Telecom said it would cut 23,000 jobs and hire 6,000 new staff worldwide for a net reduction in employees of 17,000, almost 10 percent of the global carrier's workforce.

More here.

Colleges Attempt to Appease Music Industry

Tim Scannell writes on

Music industry executives may sing a different song, but U.S. colleges and universities are, for the most part, addressing concerns about piracy and illegal file sharing.

The Recording Industry Association of America (RIAA) and the Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) sent letters to 40 colleges and universities in 25 states asking them to look for network piracy problems and take swift action if piracy is discovered.

More here.

CIA Director Porter Goss Unexpectedly Resigns

An AP newswire article, via MSNBC, reports that:

CIA Director Porter Goss resigned unexpectedly Friday, leaving behind a spy agency still battling to recover from the scars of intelligence failures before America’s worst terrorist attack and faulty information that formed the U.S. rationale for invading Iraq.

It was the latest move in a second-term shake-up of President Bush’s team.

More here.

Update: I just saw this on Talking Points Memo. No idea.

Dell to Triple Size of Ottawa Service Center

Via Reuters.

Dell Inc., the world's top maker of personal computers, said on Friday it will triple the number of workers at a new customer service center in Ottawa.

Dell plans to employ a total of 1,500 workers at the Canadian facility, up from the 500 originally planned, the company said in a statement. The facility opened in February.


Report: 'How Secrecy Designs Waste and Failure into Goverment Contracts'

A lesson for us all.

Mark Ballard writes on The Register:

Government secrecy over the outsourcing deals it does with private firms is self-defeating, and creates a culture of laxity where officials can make mistakes or abuse their power with impunity, says a report.

Citing the embarrassing case of the Bruce Stadium in Canberra, Australia, which led to the downfall of a regional government, waste of public money and the undoing of a prominent politician, a paper* in this months' Accounting, Auditing and Accountability Journal explains some of the events that led subsequently to the banning down under of the commercial-in-confidence excuse so beloved of British politicians.

More here.

Warner Target of 14 Digital Music Suits

Via BetaNews.

Even after settling with Apple's iTunes on 99-cent downloads, at least one record label is still battling elsewhere to justify the price of digital music. Warner Music Group disclosed in a quarterly filing with the Securities and Exchange Commission that it has been named as a defendant in 14 class-action lawsuits related to the price of digital music. Five of the lawsuits were filed in New York, eight in California, and one in Washington, D.C.

Warner said it expected all the lawsuits to be combined into one case. All cases accuse the label of colluding with other labels to artificially fix prices for digital music downloads. "The company intends to defend these lawsuits vigorously, but its unable to predict the outcome," it said in the filing. As well as the class action suits, Warner is cooperating with inquiries launched by the New York Attorney General and Department of Justice into the same topic.

More here.

Political Popularity Stats

Image source: MSNBC / AP

Quote of the Day: Brian L. Clark

"...I’m always happy to share my opinion about unnecessary technology."

"Mobile TV is, quite honestly, another attempt by phone companies to justify their enormous investment in 3G."

- Brian L. Clark, via Gizmodo, discussing the relevancy of Mobile TV. Clark is a reporter and consultant on all things digital, runs the The Tech Enthusiast’s Network, and writes for Money, Men’s Health, and Laptop.

Read the remainder of his article here.

U.S. Appeals Court Challenges Internet Wiretap Rules

An AP newswire article, via USA Today, reports that:

A U.S. appeals panel challenged the Bush administration Friday over new rules making it easier for police and the FBI to wiretap Internet phone calls. One judge told the government its courtroom arguments were "gobbledygook" and invited its lawyer to return to his office and "have a big chuckle."

The skepticism expressed so openly toward the government's case during a hearing in U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia emboldened a broad group of civil liberties and education groups who argued that the U.S. improperly applied telephone-era rules to a new generation of Internet services.

"Your argument makes no sense," U.S. Circuit Judge Harry T. Edwards told the lawyer for the Federal Communications Commission, Jacob Lewis. "When you go back to the office, have a big chuckle. I'm not missing this. This is ridiculous. Counsel!"

More here.

CIA in Silicon Valley Invests in -- Shocker -- A Tiny Photo Lens

Matt Marshall writes on SiliconBeat:

The CIA's venture arm, In-Q-Tel, may have lost its lead Silicon Valley operator, Gilman Louie, but the group is still working away on deals here.

Gilman has since launched a venture capital firm, and has gone quiet for now.

But Ben Choi, one of the In-Q-Tel guys holding the fort here in Silicon Valley at the group's secret Menlo Park office, told us yesterday he's just made an investment into Rhevision Technology, which is making a miniature zoom lens for cameras. Its Website is still under construction, but the company says modestly that the lens module is "going to rock the entire camera-phone industry."

Rhevision is a spin-out of UCSD. EDF Ventures joined In-Q-Tel in the investment, but the amount was undisclosed.

More here.

Canada: Comwave Accuses Rogers of Anti-Competitive Conduct

Catherine McLean writes in The Globe and Mail:

Comwave Telecom Inc. said on Friday it filed an application with the Canadian Radio-television and Telecommunications Commission, alleging Rogers Communications Inc. is putting “unduly” restrictions on the way it provides telecommunications services to its smaller rival.

The restrictions have to deal with local number portability (LNP) service, which allows local phone customers to keep their phone number when they switch carriers, according to Comwave. Rogers will only process 10 Comwave LNP requests each day, Comwave said, adding that Rogers won't handle LNP requests from Rogers phone subscribers when they want to move to Comwave.

Comwave also said on Friday that it filed a claim for $3.7-million in damages against Rogers in the Ontario Superior Court of Justice, alleging breach of contract. None of the allegations has been proven.

More here.

FCC Looking at Abuse of Phone Services for the Deaf

Brian Krebs writes on Security Fix:

The Federal Communications Commission this week asked for input on ways to curtail the amount of credit card fraud being carried out by criminals abusing Internet-based "telecommunications relay services" designed to help the the deaf and hard-of-hearing make telephone calls.

Criminals have been abusing TRS for years, taking advantage of the fact that by law, the operator who relays messages between the two parties cannot terminate or interfere in any way with the call. Much of this type of fraud is believed to be committed by the same people who send out Nigerian "419" e-mail scams: The crooks will place a call to an online merchant using an Internet-based TRS service and order goods or services with a stolen credit card number.

More here.

Self-Heating Wolfgang Puck Lattes Recalled En Masse

Image source: Engadget

Over on Engadget, Ryan Block writes:

Looks like the worlds most beloved slightly wonky Austrian chef extraordinaire is soon to have a PR fiasco on his hands.

Those self-heating single serving Wolfgang Puck branded packs are being pulled from the market faster than you can say Spago. Puck's namesake company demanded brand-licensee BrandSource Inc. pull the products from stores nationwide after complaints of incidents where the cans overheated, leaked, or the calcium oxide found its way into the hot coffee beverage, resulting in some severely burned consumers.

It gets sticky though, because BrandSource only licensed the name; OnTech was the company who provided the cans, and they apparently shoddily subcontracted, which has resulted in litigation between the two companies over some very shady dealings.

In other words, if you see one of these cans, steer clear, people.

More here.

Beer Tech: Make Beer, Not Swill!

Anheuser-Busch's World Swill?

What is it with weird news and Fridays? :-)

Matt writes over on the Signal vs. Noise blog:

Suits at Anheuser-Busch wanted to capture some of the Heineken market. So they came up with new Anheuser World Lager…

There are some problems though:
  1. It tastes like swill.
  2. The marketing copy in the ads (and site, warning: gratuitous Flash) seems like it came from an SNL parody commercial: “Old world. New world. The best of both worlds.”…”People often say the best place to drink a European beer is in Europe, and that has to do with freshness.”…etc.
  3. Most of all, the concept blows: If you think imported beer from one country tastes good, then imagine how good a beer from 10 countries must taste!

More here.

Time Running Out for Data Breach Notification Law

Grant Gross writes on InfoWorld:

In the wake of a series of data breaches in early 2005, the U.S. Congress seemed ready to move quickly on legislation that would require companies to notify customers when their personal information had been compromised.

Now, more than a year after data breaches at ChoicePoint and LexisNexis set off a national debate about identification theft and data security, time is running out for Congress to pass a law before it finishes business this year. Some proponents of a national breach notification law say it's unlikely that Congress will be able to pass a law by then.

More here.

Network Neutrality: Two Very Different Questions

David S. Isenberg brings up a very good point in a brief snippet on his

He suggests that, at the root of the of the Internet "survivability" question is two fundamentally different viewpoints :

One question is, "How do we change access provisioning so the Internet survives."

The other is, "How do we change the Internet so telcos (and cablecos) survive."

As you read the various arguments, ask yourself which question is being answered.

No hesitation in answering those questions in my mind.

UK: Bid in Parliament to Ban Muzak


We have lost the freedom to shop, eat, travel and even work without having to endure non-stop elevator music, observes Lord Beaumont of Whitley. So he presented a law to Parliament this week to switch it off in the places where it annoys people most.

Lord Beaumont hates all piped music. He made the House of Lords aware in February of the psychological stress inflicted on department store staff when Jingle Bells is repeated up to 300 times a day in the run up to Christmas. But his Private Members' Bill, published on Tuesday, focuses on the muzak players of greater concern.

More here.

Skype 2.5 Proves Harder to Block

And this is a problem because....? Personally, I see it as a Good Thing (tm).

John E. Dunn writes on TechWorld:

The latest beta version of Skype has been well received by enthusiasts, but one important new feature has so far been ignored - the programme is now much harder to block.

The development signals another round in the small but fierce war between Skype’s designers, and the growing band of security companies that sell products to block the software on corporate networks.

According to iPoque, a German company that ranks as one of only a tiny number that claim to stop Skype using traffic analysis, the beta of version 2.5 had been overhauled in important ways by its designers to make detection more difficult.

More here.

Political Toon: Just Rewards

Click for larger image.

Hacker Pleads Guilty for Botnet Attack on Seattle Hospital

John Leyden writes on The Register:

A California hacker has pleaded guilty to disrupting computer systems - including the network of a hospital - through a malware-fueled attack designed to install adware on infected PCs.

Christopher Maxwell, from Vacaville, California, 20, also confessed to disrupting US military systems during the January 2005 attack. As part of a plea bargain agreement, Maxwell agree to pay $252,000 in compensation to Northwest Hospital and Medical Centre in Seattle, the main victim of his attack, and the Department of Defense.

More here.

MSN adCenter is DOA?

Via Valleywag.

Microsoft's new ad program is broken right out of the box, according to one user:

"So much for this msn adcenter - I signed up, was charged the setup fee and the initial ad budget, now I can't even login as the site is down, and none of my ads are appearing on the msn search results."

"Can't these guys do anything right the first time?"
Trust me, reader -- that's not a bug, it's a feature.

More here.

Verizon's VoIP Offensive

Olga Kharif writes on Businessweek Online:

Take cover, Vonage.

Just weeks before the Internet-calling pioneer plans an initial share sale, rivals are planning their competitive attack. Verizon Communications on May 3 said it would slice the price of its Web-calling plan by $10, to $24.95, below the price of Vonage's comparable package.

Not only is Verizon cutting the price of its VoiceWing service to pennies less than Vonage's most popular unlimited calling plan for consumers, it's also offering free activation. That costs $29.99 at Vonage. What's more, Verizon's price change will automatically apply to current customers.

More here.

Post Mortem Pizza Boxen

Well, alright. I like.

Tech angle? Who cares. :-)

Via Boing Boing.

A chain of Kiwi pizza joints, Hell Pizza, delivers its pizzas in a novelty box that can be folded into a coffin "for your remains."

More here.

F-Secure: 'Pssst... Check Out My Profile'

Phishy Yahoo! login page.
Image source: F-Secure

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

One of our readers has brought to our attention an interesting instance of a popular Yahoo! account phishing scam. This scam takes advantage of the fact that Yahoo! requires members to logon to their account to verify their age before they can view members with adult content in their profile.

Users on Yahoo! chat rooms, besides other places, are enticed to click on a link to view a profile. The link leads to a phishing web page that is a spoof of a typical Yahoo! profiles login page hosted on a domain named

More here.

User Friendly: An Outing to Vendor Falls


Click for larger image.

Prohibition Won't Work for Net Gambling Either

Frank Catania (Former Director, New Jersey Gaming Enforecement) writes on C|Net News:

Every attempt to regulate activity on the Internet seemingly raises questions about the proverbial slippery slope.

But if regulation of the Internet is a slippery slope, then surely an outright ban of an Internet activity constitutes falling off the cliff.

Right now, Congress is seriously considering the over-the-cliff approach in the form of the Internet Gambling Prohibition Act (H.R. 4477). This bill would cut off the ability of Americans to use the Internet for (almost) all forms of gambling. (The big exception is for those who follow and bet on horse racing, underscoring the golden rule in politics: With enough money and political muscle, special interests can win themselves an exemption.)

More here.

The RFID Hacking Underground

Annalee Newitz writes on Wired News:

RFID chips are everywhere - companies and labs use them as access keys, Prius owners use them to start their cars, and retail giants like Wal-Mart have deployed them as inventory tracking devices. Drug manufacturers like Pfizer rely on chips to track pharmaceuticals.

The tags are also about to get a lot more personal: Next-gen US passports and credit cards will contain RFIDs, and the medical industry is exploring the use of implantable chips to manage patients. According to the RFID market analysis firm IDTechEx, the push for digital inventory tracking and personal ID systems will expand the current annual market for RFIDs from $2.7 billion to as much as $26 billion by 2016.

More here.

Bush Administration Defends New Internet Wiretap Rules

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

The Bush administration is defending new federal rules making it easier for police and the FBI to wiretap Internet phone calls.

A broad group of civil liberties and education groups — and a leading technology company — say the U.S. has improperly applied telephone-era rules to a new generation of Internet services.

Lawyers were expected to square off Friday over the Federal Communications Commission regulations before a three-judge panel for the U.S. Circuit Court for the District of Columbia. In an unrelated case last year affecting digital television, two of the same three judges ruled that the FCC had significantly exceeded its authority and threw out new FCC rules requiring anti-piracy technologies.

More here.

Thursday, May 04, 2006

5 May 1961: Alan Shepard, First American in Space


Alan Shepard aboard Freedom 7.
Image source: Wikipedia

Via Wikipedia.

Alan Bartlett Shepard, Jr. (November 18, 1923 – July 21, 1998) (Rear Admiral, USN, Ret.) was the first U.S. astronaut in space.

Shepard was one of the Mercury astronauts named by NASA in April 1959 to Project Mercury, and he holds the distinction of being the first American to journey into space, as well as the only Mercury astronaut to walk on the Moon.

On May 5, 1961, in the Freedom 7 spacecraft, he was launched by a Redstone rocket on a ballistic trajectory suborbital flight—a flight which carried him to an altitude of 116 statute miles and to a landing point 302 statute miles down the Atlantic Missile Range. He was scheduled to pilot the Mercury-Atlas 10 Freedom 7-II, three day extended duration mission in October 1963. The MA-10 mission was cancelled on June 13, 1963. He was the back-up pilot for Gordon Cooper for the MA-9 mission.

"Please, dear God, don't let me fuck up."

—Alan Shepard, shortly before launch on Mercury 3/Freedom 7
More here.

Great Scott! Flux Capacitor For Sale!

Image source: OhGizmo!

Andrew Liszewski writes on OhGizmo!:

It seems someone has gone to an awful lot of work to build an exact replica of the flux capacitor as seen in the Back To The Future trilogy, and they’re now selling it on eBay.

No detail was spared including actual glass tubes accurate to the ones seen in the film, a custom made circuit board and LED lights that continuously chase towards the center. It even has the label-maker warning signs as if the capacitor was built by Doc himself. The whole thing can be run off of a car battery and it comes with all the wiring needed for installation.

More here.

Customers Still Waiting for Oracle Security Patches

Ryan Naraine writes on eWeek:

Just call it Oracle's May critical patch update.

Three weeks after the database server vendor announced the release of its April 2006 CPU, customers are still waiting for the several important fixes.

More here.

Texas Lottery Faces Significant Security Weaknesses

An AP newswire article by Liz Austin, via The Austin American Statesman:

The Texas Lottery Commission needs to better enforce its computer system security policies and ensure that its main contractor is conducting background checks on its employees, according to a state auditor's report obtained by The Associated Press.

The report, which is scheduled for public release today, said security at the lottery is "generally satisfactory." But the auditors identified several significant security weaknesses.

More here.

N.Y. Lawmaker Sues Google Over Child Porn

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

A Long Island politician sued Google Inc. on Thursday claiming the search engine leader is profiting from illegal child pornography

Jeffrey Toback, a member of the Nassau County Legislature, said Google has paid links to Web sites containing pornography involving minors.

"This case is about a multi-billion dollar company that promotes and profits from child pornography," said the complaint filed in state Supreme Court in Mineola.

A Google spokesman denied the allegations and said the Mountain View, Calif.-based company takes numerous steps to prevent access to child pornography.

More here.

WCIT: Lubbock Wins Tote-Bag Battle With Austin

Yes, indeed, Austin. You let Lubbock show you up in the SWAG department. Shame, shame.

As a follow up from yesterday's update, Tony Plohetski and Robert Elder write in The Austin American Statesman:

A shipping delay for one city, a marketing win for another.

Austin City Manager Toby Futrell, frustrated that Lubbock tote bags were being handed out at an international conference in her town, had ordered 2,000 Austin-centric bags to give World Congress on Information Technology participants.

The bags, which cost the city about $2,000, were supposed to arrive by noon Thursday, but Lubbock claimed victory when Austin officials learned that their shipment wouldn't arrive until noon today — just as the conference ends. Austin Chief Financial Officer John Stephens said "some sort of logistical breakdown" caused the delay, but he didn't know the specifics.

More here.

RFID Watch: Savi Sells for $400M

Matt Marshall writes on SiliconBeat:

[...] Savi Technology, of Sunnyvale, has just been sold to defense contractor Lockheed Martin for around $400 million, according to a well-placed source. Here's the Mercury News story.

Vector Capital, a San Francisco buyout firm which is the largest shareholder in Savi, is on a roll. It is the third deal worth about $400 million for the firm in just the last week.

It is relatively unusual for defense contractors like Lockheed to buy Silicon Valley companies.

More here.

Microsoft Seeking to Patent Automatic Censorship

Well, this is a wild one.

Via /.

"Microsoft is back at the USPTO, this time seeking a patent for the automatic censorship of audio data for broadcast, a system and method for automatically altering audio to prevent undesired words and phrases from being understandable to a listener as originally uttered."

Gapingvoid: The Snowball Effect

Via Enjoy!

Level 3 May Dump Spectrum

Carmen Nobel writes on Light Reading:

As part of the recent acquisition of TelCove Inc., network operator Level 3 Communications Inc.will gain more than 300 LMDS (local multipoint distribution service) and 39GHz licenses that cover 90 percent of the population of the United States.

So what does Level 3 plan do with all that spectrum?

Recent comments from the company's CEO indicate that the company might just get rid of it, but some analysts think that would be a mistake.

More here.

BearShare to Pay $30M to Avoid Piracy Claim

An AP newswire article by Alex Veiga, via ABC News, reports that:

The operators of the BearShare online file-sharing service have agreed to pay $30 million to avoid potential copyright infringement lawsuits from the recording industry, according to court documents filed Thursday.

Free Peers Inc., which distributed the BearShare software, also agreed to close up shop and not operate any unlicensed online music services.

A federal judge must still give final approval to the terms of the settlement.

More here.

AOL's 'AIM Phoneline' Ofers Free Local Phone Number

Kevin Maney writes in USA Today:

AOL is close to unveiling a voice-over-Internet service, based on its AIM instant messenger, that would give any AIM user a local phone number for free.

Dubbed AIM Phoneline, the free number would only allow for incoming calls from any telephone, AOL executives say. Still, it's the first offer of a free number. To get a number that can be called on Skype costs about $4 a month.

An upgraded version, AIM Phoneline Unlimited, will cost $14.95 a month and allow the user to make calls to all local and long-distance numbers and 30 foreign countries. Calls would have to be made using a headset plugged into a computer and logged onto AIM through a broadband connection. AOL plans to announce the service in late-May.

More here.

Sunbelt: New Rogue Antispyware -- SpywareSheriff

Image source: Sunbelt Software

Alex Eckelberry writes over on the Sunbelt Blog:

SpywareSheriff, a new rogue antispyware application that is starting to infect a lot of users. This particular infection is harder to remove than other variants such as SpywareQuake and SpyFalcon.

This is because it uses a lot of random names for the files. It is, though, easy to tell when you are infected with this malware.

More here.

Microsoft’s Massive Purchase

Via Red Herring.

Microsoft confirmed Thursday it will acquire Massive, a startup that inserts advertising into online video games, in a continued bid to boost its online advertising presence.

As Internet companies like Google draw major revenue from the online ads business, Microsoft’s online ad move is a company-wide makeover. Earlier Thursday, Microsoft announced its adCenter, a hub for advertisers interested in reaching the company’s web visitors.

The New York-based startup will help Microsoft deliver ads across Microsoft’s online services, starting with Xbox Live and MSN Games. It could later be available on adCenter, MSN, MSN Messenger, and Windows Live.

More here.

iPods Bring Down Hospital Servers

Via Watch Your End.

iPods and MP3 players aren’t just a security risk, it appears. British tabloid newspaper, The Sun, has revealed that a leading UK hospital lost its servers for two days thanks to staff downloading huge quantities of songs and movies from the internet for use on their MP3 players. Journalists found that servers at the Queen Mother Hospital in Kent were out of action for 48 hours while storage space intended for X-rays and patient records was crammed full of multimedia files.

After the main server crashed the hospital went on a go-slow and X-rays had to be processed using film while patient notes were pulled out of hand-written back-up files. Managers at the hospital — which had to close a ward last month because of a £35 million ($65 million) hole in finances — admitted the computer misuse had been costly.

More here.

Apple Granted Patent for Wireless iPod

Andrew Orlowksi writes on The Register:

The US Patent and Trademark Office has published two patent applications today which offer some clue to the future shape of the iPod, and also Apple's ambitions as a digital media distributor.

As well as an intriguing glimpse of what a wireless iPod could do, it potentially sets Apple on a collision course with the major cellular phone networks.

Patent application (#20060095339), filed 18 months ago, describes an iPod that's fully wireless enabled - but envisages it as a portable shopping cart rather than a device for sharing media.

More here.

Islamist Extremists Using U.S. Video Games to Allure Youth

David Morgan writes for Reuters:

The makers of combat video games have unwittingly become part of a global propaganda campaign by Islamic militants to exhort Muslim youths to take up arms against the United States, officials said on Thursday.

Tech-savvy militants from al Qaeda and other groups have modified video war games so that U.S. troops play the role of bad guys in running gunfights against heavily armed Islamic radical heroes, Defense Department official and contractors told Congress.

The games appear on militant Web sites, where youths as young as 7 can play at being troop-killing urban guerillas after registering with the site's sponsors.

More here.

694 Million People Online Worldwide

An AFP newswire article, via, reports that:

Some 694 million people worldwide over age 15 are now using the Internet, about 14 percent of the total population in this age group, according to a survey released Thursday.

The report by research firm comScore Networks claims to be "the first true estimate of global online audience size and behavior" using consistent methodology.

The estimate was based on a survey of major markets including China and India.

More here.

Italy Probes Porn on 3 Italia Mobile Network

Rachel Sanderson writes for Reuters:

Italy's communications ministry said on Thursday it was making checks into pornography available on Hutchison Whampoa's 3 Italia mobile telephone network after a TV report said the X-rated images could be downloaded by children.

The ministry also invited the Italian judiciary to regulate the sector more closely, a move likely to raise concern in the fast-growing, multi-million euro industry.

More here.

In Memoriam: The 1970 Kent State Shootings

Mary Ann Vecchio gestures and screams as she kneels by the body of a student, Jeffrey Miller, lying face down on the campus of Kent State University, Kent, Ohio on May 4, 1970.
Image source: Wikipedia / John Filo / AP

Lest we forget.

Via Wikipedia.

The Kent State shootings, also known as May 4 or the Kent State massacre, occurred at Kent State University in the city of Kent, Ohio, and involved the shooting of students by the Ohio National Guard on Monday, May 4, 1970. The altercation killed four students and wounded nine others.

The shootings were the culmination of four days of increasingly agitated demonstrations by members of the student body. The students were protesting the American invasion of Cambodia which President Richard Nixon launched on April 25, and announced in a television address five days later.

More here.

Ex-Integral Systems CEO Gets Probation

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

The former CEO of satellite software company Integral Systems Inc. received a suspended sentence and five years of supervised probation Thursday for molesting a 14-year-old girl.

Steven R. Chamberlain, 50, of Columbia [Maryland], pleaded guilty last month to fourth-degree sexual offense, a misdemeanor.

He could have been sentenced to up to one year in prison, but Howard County Circuit Judge Diane O. Leasure said incarceration would exceed sentencing guidelines.

More here.

Pentagon Surfing Thousands of Jihad Sites

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

A Pentagon research team monitors more than 5,000 jihadist Web sites, focusing daily on the 25 to 100 most hostile and active, defense officials say.

The team includes 25 linguists, who cover multiple dialects of the Arabic language and provide reports on events sparking anger on extremist Web sites, Dan Devlin, a Pentagon public diplomacy specialist, said Thursday. The researchers, for instance, focused in November on the backlash caused by the Danish cartoons depicting the Prophet Muhammad.

Devlin testified to Congress as part of a briefing on how terrorists use the Internet.

More here.

Panda: 70% of Malicious Software Aimed at Theft

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

Seventy percent of malicious software being circulated is linked to various types of cybercrime, a study by security firms Panda Software showed.

The report, based on a survey in the first quarter of 2006, suggested that "financial profit has become a priority" for creators of "malware," which includes viruses, worms, trojans and spyware, the company said.

More here.

Microsoft to Release 3 Critical Patches on 9 May 2006

Via The Microsoft Security Bulletin Advance Notification.

On 9 May 2006 Microsoft is planning to release:

Security Updates

  • One Microsoft Security Bulletin affecting Microsoft Exchange. The highest Maximum Severity rating for this is Critical. These updates may require a restart. These updates will be detectable using the Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer. Note that this update will include the functionality change discussed in Microsoft Knowledge Base Article 912918. Administrators are urged to review this Knowledge Base article prior to release and take steps appropriate for their environment.
  • Two Microsoft Security Bulletins affecting Microsoft Windows. The highest Maximum Severity rating for these is Critical. These updates may require a restart. These updates will be detectable using the Microsoft Baseline Security Analyzer and the Enterprise Scanning Tool.

More here.

AOL to Sell Internet Access Over Clearwire

Colin Gibbs writes on RCR Wireless News:

AOL is teaming with Craig McCaw’s Clearwire Corp. to offer high-speed wireless broadband access.

The service, which is available starting for $26 a month, has been deployed in three mid-sized Clearwire markets in California and Florida. Subscribers can access the Internet using licensed spectrum while in Clearwire coverage areas via a wireless modem.

More here.

Gadget Watch: License Plate LED Message Frame

Image source: OhGizmo!

Andrew Liszewski writes on OhGizmo!:

In the 80's those neon-light license plate frames were all the rage but as we now find ourselves in the 21st century plain old neon just doesn’t cut it anymore. Enter the License Plate Flash Frame which uses super-bright LEDs (visible in the day or night) to scroll user-programmable messages.

Using the wireless remote control you can enter up to 5 different messages, each up to 120 characters in length and I assume the remote can also trigger the different messages as applicable. Of course it’s recommended to program messages that promote your favorite sports team or advertise a business but I suspect people will find other more creative expressions to use on the road.

More here.

'Cyclic Universe' Can Explain Cosmological Constant

Zeeya Merali writes on NewScientistSpace:

A cyclic universe, which bounces through a series of big bangs and "big crunches", could solve the puzzle of our cosmological constant, physicists suggest.

The cosmological constant represents the energy of empty space, and is thought to be the most likely explanation for the observed speeding up of the expansion of the universe. But its measured value is a googol (1 followed by 100 zeroes) times smaller than that predicted by particle physics theories. It is a discrepancy that gives cosmologists a real headache.

In the 1980s, physicists considered the possibility that an initially large cosmological constant could decay down to the value measured today. But this theory was abandoned when calculations showed that it would take far longer than 14 billion years – the time since the big bang – for the constant to reach the level seen today.

Now physicists Paul Steinhardt at Princeton University, in New Jersey, US, and Neil Turok at Cambridge University in the UK, are resurrecting the idea. They point out that if time stretches back beyond the big bang, the problem could be solved. At that is just what is predicted by their cyclic model of the universe – an alternative to the Standard Big Bang theory – which the pair first developed in 2002.

More here.

Microsoft Buys Imaging Firm Vexcel

Nate Mook writes on BetaNews:

Microsoft on Thursday announced its second acquisition related to the company's new Virtual Earth business unit, buying imaging and remote sensor specialist Vexcel Corp. Vexcel's employees will join the Redmond company and help build out its 2D and 3D mapping capabilities.

Microsoft says that Vexcel's technology will allow it to more quickly expand aerial, bird’s-eye and street-side imagery in its consumer and business applications. "Aligning Vexcel’s talent, expertise, products and services with our vision, resources and offerings will enable us to deliver on our vision better than ever before," said Virtual Earth general manager Stephen Lawler. Terms of the acquisition were not disclosed.

More here.

MySpace Changes Terms of Service (Again) After Complaint

Stefanie Olsen writes on the C|Net Media Blog:

Apparently MySpace, the social hot spot for 65 million on the Web, changed, then changed again, its terms and conditions giving it broad rights to the content posted by members even after they removed that content from the Web site, according to a child advocate Web site and a report in The Register.

After a complaint that MySpace had added rights to user material in perpetuity in terms revised in March, parent company News Corp. apparently reversed the decision. Versions of the various terms and conditions can be seen here.

MySpace didn't immediately respond to a request for comment.

More here.

Spam King Sanford Wallace Finally Hit With $4M Penalty

Roy Mark writes on

Justice was finally downloaded Thursday on Sanford Wallace, a notorious spammer of the 1990s who moved on to illegal spyware operations that installed adware, spyware and other unsolicited software programs on users' computers.

A New Hampshire federal district court ordered Wallace and his company, Smartbot.Net, to pay more than $4 million in restitution, and it permanently barred Wallace from downloading any software to consumers 'computer without the users' consent.

Wallace was at the center of the Federal Trade Commission's (FTC) first spyware case in October 2004.

More here.

Telcos Blitz Washington in Million-Dollar Campaign

Via SaveThe

The cable and phone lobby is bombarding Washington with the TV ads urging Congress to support their plans to seize control of the Internet.

According to an investigation by Jeff Chester, the industry is spending $1 million a week on ads and lobbying to woo our elected officials to vote with AT&T and Verizon, and against the best interests of their constituents.

“Companies such as Qwest, Comcast, Time Warner, and AT&T want to be broadband barons,” Chester writes, “with all other content providers and users reduced to serving as merely consuming digital surfs.”

More here.

Current Communications Attracts Additional BPL Investors

Via Red Herring.

Broadband over power lines market leader Current Communications said Thursday it received $130 million in equity investments from General Electric, EarthLink, TXU, and Sensus Metering Systems.

It’s the second significant infusion of funding for the Germantown, Maryland firm in nine months.

Last July the company announced that Google, Goldman Sachs, and Hearst invested $100 million in the company’s business, which is adding intelligence and communications capabilities to the electricity delivery grid.

More here.