Saturday, August 12, 2006

Collect them all! Coming soon: Your favorite evil doer!

Aug 12, 6:51 AM EDT

Judge: Unabomber Items to Be Sold Online

SACRAMENTO (AP) -- A federal judge has ordered personal items seized in 1996 from Unabomber Theodore Kaczynski's Montana cabin to be sold online.

U.S. District Judge Garland Burrell Jr. ruled Thursday that items belonging to Kaczynski - including books, tools, clothing and two checkbooks - should be sold at a "reasonably advertised Internet auction."

The auction will not include 100 items the government considers to be bomb-making materials, [Fortunately, these can be replicated at any hardware store. Bob] such as writings that contain diagrams and "recipes" for bombs.

U.S. Marshals Service will contract the sale with an Internet auctioneer who will bear the cost and receive no more than 10 percent of the proceeds.

The remaining revenues from the sale will be applied to the $15 million in restitution that Burrell ordered Kaczynski to pay his victims.

Kaczynski, 64, is serving a life sentence with no possibility of parole for a bombing spree that lasted from 1978 to 1995. The blasts from homemade bombs killed three people and injured 23.

Kaczynski was arrested at his cabin in Lincoln, Mont., in April 1996.

...and I thought these laws were just to keep me from bugging my congressman.

Michigan Enforces Do-Not-Email Registry Law

Posted by CowboyNeal on Friday August 11, @09:47AM from the think-of-the-children dept. Spam The Courts

elanghe writes "The Michigan Attorney General filed suit against two companies sending adult-oriented email messages to the state's children, in violation of the Michigan Children's Protection Registry. A similar law in Utah is being challenged by the porn industry. While the FTC, influenced by the Direct Marketing Association, rejected the idea of a do-not-email registry, have these two states proven anti-spam laws like these — unlike CAN-SPAM — really have teeth?"

If this business(?) model works, I can see it replacing garage sales. “Hey! I'll give you some of my junk for some of your junk!”

BookMooch: Swap your books for free

August 11, 2006 4:33 PM PDT

BookMooch is the Craigslist of swapping sites. It's not as fancy as some other sites (such as LaLa and Peerflix), but it's totally free to use. There's no monthly charge and no per-transaction fee. You do have to give to get, though: each book costs a point. You get one point for sending a book to a user, and a tenth of a point for each book you add to your Moochable inventory.

Actually, there is a cost: you have to pay to send books to other users.

Since BookMooch uses points as currency, your trades do not have to be direct swaps with other users, as they do on the free trading site, SwapTree. On the other hand, on SwapTree you can trade more than just books.

BookMooch also has a browser bookmarklet, the MoochBar, that will find books on the Web page you're on and add them to your want list or to your inventory. So if you're on Amazon and see a book you want, you can easily Mooch it. You'll have to wait for a BookMooch user to send it, but it will obviously cost you a lot less than buying it new.

BookMooch is run by John Buckman, who told me that when it comes to making money from the site, "I totally don't care." He made a lifetime of earnings selling his e-mail company, Lyris. Good for him. While there are too many swapping networks right now, the financial model of this one is in line with the negligible cash value of most used books.

Get the propaganda direct to your target audience!

August 11, 2006

DOJ Info Tech Initiatives Now Include Podcasting

DOJ Office of Justice Programs, IT Initiatives: "New York City, New York, has begun a series of podcasts for its 130 million transit riders of the Metropolitan Transit Authority to provide information and tips about public transportation. TransitTrax are podcasts presented in six sections: customer safety, building for the future, promotions, security, advisories, and news. One podcast explains the new $5 million "Eyes On Board" program that will install hundreds of digital recording cameras for surveillance on buses. The cameras will be equipped with wireless technology for wireless access points. The images could help law enforcement investigations, as well as provide information on passenger injury claims."

Buy low, sell high. There I've said it. Now let's patent it! I also want to patent the assembly of meals to order; at first, putting a hot dog in a bun – later complete meals! Anyone want to buy in?

August 11, 2006 Legal Beat

A Wall Street Rush to Patent Profit-Making Methods


THERE is a new cold war on the horizon.

An intellectual property arms race is escalating on Wall Street, where financial services firms like Goldman Sachs and Citigroup are building up stockpiles of patents on processes like software-based pricing, trading and risk analysis systems and products like credit cards, exchange-traded funds and exotic derivatives.

While there have been no big clashes yet, the question is, Which firm will be the first to try to enforce its growing portfolio of patents?

Patent activity among financial services firms began to soar in the late 1990’s, prompted by the boom in new technology and by the fact that banks were spending enormous sums to upgrade their in-house systems. A federal court decision in 1998 that software and business methods could be patented also fed the rush to seek patents.

•The result was a virtual stampede among top financial services firms to the United States Patent and Trademark Office. In 1997, there were 927 patent applications for various methods of processing financial and management data. Last year, there were 6,226.

“Try to find a major bank that doesn’t have an intellectual property program or in-house counsel capability in this area — I think that’s hard to find,” said Walter G. Hanchuk, a patent lawyer with Chadbourne & Parke. “People underestimate how much technology there is on Wall Street. It’s not just about a new credit card. There’s a lot of tech savvy behind that.”

... “I think there will be increased filings as the convergence of banking and technology is irreversible,’’ he said. “As people spend more and more building systems and deploying technology, they’re going to want to make sure they have the rights available to them.”

... “Right now, because all of the Wall Street banks are showing record profits, there’s not much incentive to sue within the club,” Mr. Millien said. “But three years or so down the road, it’s hard to say.”

Is this a viable technique for those under attack? i.e. The Martha Stewards or Director of Veteran Affairs types?

Interview request

These days when I get an interview request from a professional reporter, I offer to answer the questions, best I can, on my blog, without saying who the reporter is and exactly what questions were asked. This way I create a public record, something that can be useful to anyone, and I avoid the problem of being quoted selectively and out of context. Having created a record that's likely to be as widely read as the story, I make sure what I have to say has a chance of being heard.

... I don't want everything I write to be seen as a U.N. Security Council resolution, yet often my posts are read and picked at as if they were formal documents, [Can you have it both ways? Bob] and they don't stand up to such treatment.

Useful? Probably not until we can tie it into caller ID and automatically keep the phone from ringing...

By tim on August 10, 2006

Here's another take on Suburban Mom Embraces the Surveillance Society. is a site where people can share comments about the identity of phone spammers. Get a call from an unrecognized number on your cell? Look it up to see who it was, where they are, and who else they called that didn't like it. Here's how to tag this interesting: antispam hacks, collective_intelligence, smartmobs, surveillance.... Not to mention another clever use for the vestigial .us domain!

... Digression: I'm fascinated by the stages of new technology. First it's cool, then people start to realize some of the downsides, then people figure out how to harness some of those downsides and it's cool again, at least with regard to these hacks. Eventually, everyone becomes inured to it, and it becomes boring, regardless of how important it is :-)

If the Video gamers get this much, think how valuable a Porn franchise (Perverts-R-Us) just became! Kinda make you wish for “legislator liability”...

Video Game Industry Wins Over Half A Million Dollars In Attorney’s Fees From State Of Illinois

Entertainment Software Association (ESA) 8/11/2006 9:03:15 AM

Washington, D.C. (August 10, 2006) – The State of Illinois must pay the video game industry $510,528.64 in attorney’s fees for its unconstitutional effort to enact a law banning the sale of violent video games, Judge Matthew F. Kennelly, United States District Judge, Northern District of Illinois, ruled yesterday.

"Judge Kennelly’s rulings send two irrefutable messages – not only are efforts to ban the sale of violent video games clearly unconstitutional, they are a waste of taxpayer dollars," said Douglas Lowenstein, president of the ESA, the trade group representing U.S. computer and video game publishers. "The sad fact is that the State of Illinois knew this law was unconstitutional from the beginning. Taxpayers have a right to know that over half a million of their dollars and countless government hours were thrown away in this fruitless effort."

Didn't Microsoft get into legal squabble just for pre-installing their browser? Now they want to pre-install and lock it down!

So You Wanna Change Your Default Browser In Vista?

Posted by Ryan on 11 Aug 2006 9:27 am. Filed under Software , Windows.

I have been using Vista Beta 2 for a while now and there is one thing that continues to frustrate me. Microsoft has designed the User Account Control (UAC) to work so perfectly that it will be difficult for the average person to switch the default browser. [Don't worry, they include an easy to follow 647 page guide to switching browsers Bob] After installing Vista you can open up the Control Panel and the first thing that I do is switch to the classic view. Opening up the Default Programs module and looking at the setting for Internet Explorer reveals that it is set to the default browser:

But 11 out of 6 people don't understand statistics...

Don't Be Terrorized

You're more likely to die of a car accident, drowning, fire, or murder

Ronald Bailey August 11, 2006

Yesterday, British authorities broke up an alleged terror plot to blow up as many as ten commercial airliners as they flew to the United States. In response, the Department of Homeland Security upped the alert level on commercial flights from Britain to "red" and boosted the alert to "orange" for all other flights. In a completely unscientific poll, AOL asked subscribers: "Are you changing your travel plans because of the raised threat level?" At mid-afternoon about a quarter of the respondents had said yes. Such polls do reflect the kinds of anxieties terrorist attacks, even those that have been stymied, provoke in the public.

But how afraid should Americans be of terrorist attacks? Not very, as some quick comparisons with other risks that we regularly run in our daily lives indicate. Your odds of dying of a specific cause in any year are calculated by dividing that year's population by the number of deaths by that cause in that year. Your lifetime odds of dying of a particular cause are calculated by dividing the one-year odds by the life expectancy of a person born in that year. For example, in 2003 about 45,000 Americans died in motor accidents out of population of 291,000,000. So, according to the National Safety Council this means your one-year odds of dying in a car accident is about one out of 6500. Therefore your lifetime probability (6500 ÷ 78 years life expectancy) of dying in a motor accident are about one in 83.

What about your chances of dying in an airplane crash? A one-year risk of one in 400,000 and one in 5,000 lifetime risk. What about walking across the street? A one-year risk of one in 48,500 and a lifetime risk of one in 625. Drowning? A one-year risk of one in 88,000 and a one in 1100 lifetime risk. In a fire? About the same risk as drowning. Murder? A one-year risk of one in 16,500 and a lifetime risk of one in 210. What about falling? Essentially the same as being murdered. And the proverbial being struck by lightning? A one-year risk of one in 6.2 million and a lifetime risk of one in 80,000. And what is the risk that you will die of a catastrophic asteroid strike? In 1994, astronomers calculated that the chance was one in 20,000. However, as they've gathered more data on the orbits of near earth objects, the lifetime risk has been reduced to one in 200,000 or more.

So how do these common risks compare to your risk of dying in a terrorist attack? To try to calculate those odds realistically, Michael Rothschild, a former business professor at the University of Wisconsin, worked out a couple of plausible scenarios. For example, he figured that if terrorists were to destroy entirely one of America's 40,000 shopping malls per week, your chances of being there at the wrong time would be about one in one million or more. Rothschild also estimated that if terrorists hijacked and crashed one of America's 18,000 commercial flights per week that your chance of being on the crashed plane would be one in 135,000.

Even if terrorists were able to pull off one attack per year on the scale of the 9/11 atrocity, that would mean your one-year risk would be one in 100,000 and your lifetime risk would be about one in 1300. (300,000,000 ÷ 3,000 = 100,000 ÷ 78 years = 1282) In other words, your risk of dying in a plausible terrorist attack is much lower than your risk of dying in a car accident, by walking across the street, by drowning, in a fire, by falling, or by being murdered.

So do these numbers comfort you? If not, that's a problem. Already, security measures—pervasive ID checkpoints, metal detectors, and phalanxes of security guards—increasingly clot the pathways of our public lives. It's easy to overreact when an atrocity takes place—to heed those who promise safety if only we will give the authorities the "tools" they want by surrendering to them some of our liberty. As President Franklin Roosevelt in his first inaugural speech said, "The only thing we have to fear is fear itself— nameless, unreasoning, unjustified terror which paralyzes needed efforts to convert retreat into advance." However, with risks this low there is no reason for us not to continue to live our lives as though terrorism doesn't matter—because it doesn't really matter. We ultimately vanquish terrorism when we refuse to be terrorized.

Make my dreams of Dungeons & Dragons a reality!

Man Uses Sword to Fight Off Burglars

... Police say they got a call from residents of the 3100 block of Lyndale Avenue South that four people had forced their way into a residence.

According to police, once the burglars were inside, they got into a fight with one of the residents who grabbed his roommates sword and started slashing the intruders. His feisty attack send the invaders running, but not before he wounded several.

Shortly after Minneapolis police arrived, they were called by doctors at the hospital about the arrival of three people to the ER with severed fingers and lacerations.

One had minor injuries and was treated and arrested. The other two were more seriously injured and were treated. They’ll be transported to the Hennepin County Jail when they are released by the hospital.

Can't get enough advertising?

Now playing: Movie trailers

8/11/2006 07:14:00 AM Posted by Matthias Ruhl, Research Scientist (& Google Movies 20%-er)

Are the special effects in Pirates of the Caribbean any good? Is Tom Hanks' haircut really that bad in The Da Vinci Code? Should you take your grandparents to see Clerks II? Will you be able to sleep after watching The Descent?

Friday, August 11, 2006

Use the Internet to find things you can do off the Internet. Has potential!

August 8, 2006

BusyTonight Search Engine For Events

Filed under: Culture-Events

Crawling the Internet searching for event data? Yoiks. But that’s what BusyTonight is doing, a new search engine for events in the US. (And available at .) And though the site submission warned me that the number of listings in the next ten days would increase by two or three times, there’s enough here now to warrant a look.

How terrorist change society. OR How come we let the bastards do this to us?

New rules put laptops in checked baggage

Posted by Reverend on 10 Aug 2006 - 20:36 GMT

Techzonez U.K. authorities banned passengers from taking electronic items on board airplanes following the arrests of 21 people Thursday in connection with an alleged plot to blow up aircraft mid-flight en route to the U.S.

... Additional information on heightened security measures in the U.S. can be found at and

Laptop computers, iPods, and mobile phones must be placed in checked baggage on flights out of the U.K. Airline passengers have become accustomed to additional checks following the September 2001 terrorist attacks in the U.S. Airport security checks require that laptops must be removed from their cases and X-rayed. But the new security measures in the U.K. could mean an increased chance of theft or damage to laptops and devices that must be checked and not carried on.

Full story: InfoWorld

Wednesday, 9 August 2006

USA Supreme Court asked to rule on secrecy of law restricting freedom of travel

A petition for certiorari was filed with the U.S. Supreme Court last Friday in the case of Gilmore v. Gonzales , asking the court to rule on whether "the government keep secret a directive that is generally applicable to millions of passengers every day", requiring them to present documentary evidence of their identity (or maybe to submit to a more intrusive search) in order to travel by airline common carrier within the USA.

The Supreme Court doesn't have to hear this (or almost any other) case, and could let stand the abominable reasoning and outcome of the decision by the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals. But I'm cautiously optimistic that the Supreme Court may take up the question of the Constitutionality of secret law. If the Supreme Court rules in favor of John Gilmore (and everyone who believes in justice) on that question, we may finally get a chance on remand to address the issues of freedom of travel:

So what does this work out to per customer? (And why won't I get any of that money?)§ion=news&src=rss/uk/technologyNews

Sprint settles consumer privacy case

Thu Aug 10, 2006 06:07 PM ET

NEW YORK (Reuters) - Sprint Nextel Corp. said on Thursday that it had secured a $1 million settlement from 1st Source Information Specialists in a suit over the sale of phone call records.

How to be a politician in the 21st century?

Fantastic collection of political mashups

John Anderson sent me a link to a fantastic collection of political mashups. The current President is a popular target, but the Nixon stuff is really great as well.

Towards ubiquitous surveillance.,1759,2001723,00.asp?kc=EWRSS03119TX1K0000594

Subway Merges Payment, Loyalty and CRM Programs

By Evan Schuman, Ziff Davis Internet August 10, 2006

In what one executive of the $9 billion, 26,000-restaurant Subway chain dubbed "the single largest integrated cash card program in the world," Subway has come out with a card that handles payment, instant loyalty rewards and highly targeted promotions that can be tracked by the customer.

Geek stuff...,1759,2002063,00.asp?kc=EWRSS03119TX1K0000594

Yahoo Delivers Resource for Python Developers

August 10, 2006 By Darryl K. Taft

Yahoo has created a new resource for Python developers.

The search company on Aug. 8 opened its Yahoo Developer Network – Python Developer Center. The Yahoo Python Developer Center is a Web site that provides Python developers with access to information to help them build applications in the Python object-oriented dynamic language.

A description on the Yahoo Python Developer Center site says Python "offers strong support for integration with other languages and tools, comes with extensive standard libraries, and can be learned in a few days."

All Lawsuits Lead to San Francisco

Some 25 class action lawsuits against the nation's telecoms for their alleged participation thewarrantlesss surveillance of American citizen's communications will all be heard by the same judge who recently refused to dismiss an anti-spying suit against AT&T over the government's objections.

That case was put on hold Tuesday until late September, pending this decision from the multi-district litigation panel in Chicago and any movement from the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals on the government's and AT&T's appeals of Chief Judge Vaughn Walker's refusal to dismiss the case on the grounds of national security.

August 10, 2006

June/July Issue of Global Legal Monitor Available

The Law Library of Congress announces the release of the June/July issue of the Global Legal Monitor. [Luis M. Acosta, Legal Information Analyst, Law Library of Congress]

August 10, 2006

International Terrorism: Threat, Policy, and Response

CRS Report, International Terrorism: Threat, Policy, and Response, August 9, 2006

August 10, 2006

Treasury IG Report Details Increased Security Risks from Non Business Use of Email

Inappropriate Use of Email by Employees and System Configuration Management Weaknesses Are Creating Security Risks, July 31, 2006, Reference Number: 2006-20-110 (20 pages, PDF). "We found e-mail messages that violated the IRS' personal use policy in the electronic mailboxes of 71 (74 percent) of 96 employees."

If businesses spent half the effort trying to understand (take advantage of) new technologies, they could own the market...

Wine Sellers' Prediction Of Internet-Enabled Teen Winos Comes Up Empty

from the who-knew? dept

It's always fun when industry groups who are clearly trying to protect a business model under threat come up with scare mongering quotes to try to get politicians to block out new competitors with new business models. For years, many states had protectionist laws when it came to online wine sales. Most of these were designed to protect the local wine sellers -- but, of course, the public spin was that it was all about "protecting the children." Last year, of course, the Supreme Court knocked down the most protectionist of these laws. So, now that it's been a year, if the wine sellers were right, we should be hearing stories of teens ordering wine all the time. Unfortunately for them, a new study shows that teens really don't seem to care much about ordering wine online. Perhaps the times have changed, but when I was a teen, wine wasn't exactly the alcoholic beverage of choice among my friends. Plus, you have to take into account that wine deliveries still require signatures, and most teens tend to live at home with parents who might notice an incoming shipment of alcohol. So, you would think this would make those who were screaming about "protecting the children" quiet down -- but, you'd be wrong. Instead, they're still trying to spin this, calling the findings "shocking" and saying that the low number only means it's about to rise rapidly. "This is new, hard evidence that should really shake up this debate about direct sales." No, this is actually new, hard evidence that the problem you've been screaming about isn't a problem at all.

Maybe We Can Let R2D2 Be The Judge, Too

from the tipping-the-scales dept

With high profile trials, a huge part of the circus is the jury selection, where jury consultants conduct mock trials, focus groups, and extensive background checks, all with the idea to create a jury that is most favorable for each side. It's a very expensive process, one that is out of reach for most defendants. Well, suprisingly, automation has now hit the art of jury selection, with computer-aided jury picking, by JuryQuest. Using just seven attributes: age, sex, race, education, occupation, marital status, and prior jury service, the service guides trial lawyers towards selecting juries with the best chance of their victory. JuryQuest defendants are acquitted over 50% of the time, which is almost twice the average for defendants with retained lawyers (26%) and nearly three times higher than those with just public defenders (15%). It seems crazy that just seven attributes could have such an affect on the outcome of a trial, but the difference for publicly defended defendants is perhaps most shocking. If automated jury selection becomes more accessible for all defendants, will it be able to close the gap for the defendants that currently stand the most chance of being convicted?

Will Your Text Messaging Style Implicate You In Criminal Cases?

from the perhaps dept

There has been plenty of research done into how people write in distinct ways, such that a certain person can be connected (or not) to a specific written work. However, it appears that some of that research doesn't work when it comes to the text messaging world, where people change the style of what they write to fit within the character limit or the need to "triple tap" on a numeric keyboard. With that in mind, researchers are starting a project to collect and analyze text messages to see if they contain similar identifying characteristics -- with the hope of helping police in criminal cases. So, if you plan on being a criminal mastermind via your mobile phone, you may want to start mixing up your text messaging style.

Not a conspiracy theory: But, at what point does protecting intellectual property harm society? Is “what's good for Microsoft” at odds with the “greater good?” It used to be that “What's good for General Bullmoose is good for the country!” (L'il Abner)

Windows defense handcuffs good guys

By Joris Evers Story last modified Fri Aug 11 04:37:26 PDT 2006

A protective feature in Windows is locking out the good guys, but letting in a lot of bad guys, according to security software makers.

Microsoft designed PatchGuard to safeguard core parts of Windows, including Vista, against malicious code attacks. But some security companies say that the feature makes it harder for them to protect Windows PCs, as it locks them out of the kernel, the core of the operating system.

Tools and Techniques (timely too)

How liquid explosives work

tlmac59 submitted by tlmac59 15 hours 53 minutes ago (via )

In light of the terrorist attacks foiled by authorities in the UK, I was left wondering exactly how liquid explosives work and how they would be deployed by terrorists. This Howstuffworks article is the answer to such questions.

Global same-ing?

Public release date: 10-Aug-2006

Contact: Dena Headlee 703-292-7739 National Science Foundation

Overall Antarctic snowfall hasn't changed in 50 years

Large variations make establishing trends difficult

For an animated graphic of snowfall variability across Antarctica and over time and b-roll of the U.S. ITASE traverse on Betacam SP, contact Dena Headlee ( (703) 292-7739.

The most precise record of Antarctic snowfall ever generated shows there has been no real increase in precipitation over the southernmost continent in the past half-century, even though most computer models assessing global climate change call for an increase in Antarctic precipitation as atmospheric temperatures rise.

Thursday, August 10, 2006

I dropped the 'spousal unit' at DIA around 06:30 and just got a call at 08:00 to report she had made it through security – after dumping her perfume and chapstick. May Osama die of chapped lips!

How to read search history...

Mon 07 Aug 2006

AOL User 927 Illuminated

Aroused by the thought of juicy big piles of AOL user search data? Consumerist does the wading for you and finds a delightful little item, AOL User 927.

The record starts out blandly enough in March. First he's concerned about how long it takes broken legs to heal. Then he investigates human mold. Perhaps staying at home after an accident? Then he peeks into a little dog sex, but the leash isn't very long, the most prurient site he reaches being, a regular ol' newspaper.

Later that day he looks up flowers. flowers aster. butterfly orchid. The next day, more flowers, followed by a little forced rape porn, testicle festivals and slow-dancing steps. Must be planning a big night.

Fast-forward to May...

Queries include: beauty and the beast disney porn, holocaust rape, japanese child slave, molestation and rape porn, virtual children, 3d molestation and rape porn, topped off with a little, "oh i like that baby. i put on my robe and wizards hat."

But since he was using AOL he never got to see anything that might have potentially tainted his fragile, mold-ridden mind.

Download User 927's file

This will let you hire cheaper (bad) programmers?

Software testing product also writes code

Agitar's Agitator will automatically generate alternate bug-free and more efficient code

By John Ribeiro, IDG News Service August 10, 2006

Agitar Software plans to ship a software testing product next year that will test a developer’s code and, if necessary, automatically generate alternate bug-free and more efficient code, according to an executive of the company.

Linux is looking better every day…,1895,2001219,00.asp

Microsoft to Tighten the Genuine Advantage Screws

August 9, 2006 By Mary Jo Foley, Microsoft Watch

To date, with its Genuine Advantage anti-piracy programs, Microsoft has targeted consumers. Windows and Office users have been required to validate their products as "genuine" before being able to obtain many downloads and add-ons.

Come this fall, however, the Redmond, Wash., software maker is planning to turn up the Genuine Advantage heat in two ways: by baking more Genuine Advantage checks directly into Windows Vista, and by taking aim at PC makers, system builders, Internet cafes and other sources of potentially pirated software.

Microsoft officials—whose Genuine Advantage Notification strategy came under fire earlier this summer—declined to share specifics about its new Genuine Advantage plans. But executives already have been setting the stage for the upcoming changes in recent keynote addresses.

"We expect to do more to make Windows more differentiated when it's genuine, and so genuine customers get a truly different experience than non-genuine customers, as well as to make piracy harder, so that our genuine partners can do a better job competing with those that don't play by the rules," Windows Client Marketing Chief Michael Sievert told attendees of Microsoft's Worldwide Partner Conference in July.

Microsoft Platforms and Services Co-President Kevin Johnson was more specific about Microsoft's plans, in his remarks to Wall Street analysts at Microsoft's Financial Analyst Meeting in late July.

"We built a set of features and a set of functionality that is only available to genuine Windows customers," Johnson said. "Windows Defender, for example, the anti-spyware for Windows XP and Windows Vista, is available to genuine Windows customers. Windows Media Player 11.0, Internet Explorer 7.0, will be available for download for Windows XP customers who are genuine, and of course those are built into Windows Vista. Future updates to Internet Explorer and Windows Media Player for Windows Vista will require them to be genuine. And certainly there's some premium features built into the Windows Vista operating system that will require genuine validation as well. So we're really trying to amplify the fact that being genuine enables the set of benefits and value to access these types of features and capabilities."

Read the full story on Microsoft Watch: Microsoft to Tighten the Genuine Advantage Screws

A Different Kind of WGA 'Problem'

Posted by ScuttleMonkey on Wednesday August 09, @06:46PM from the foolproof-just-found-a-better-fool dept. Microsoft Security

Ed Bott recently attempted to scout out the problems reported in so many horror stories floating around the net relating to Microsoft's WGA. He did experience problems, however, not the ones that you might expect. He intentionally installed a pirated copy of Windows XP to see how the process worked but was unable to get WGA to recognize his computer as pirated. From the article: "I'm reluctantly running a pirated version of Windows and can't get caught no matter how hard I try. But these same people want us to believe that the WGA software they've developed is nearly foolproof. They claim that all but "a fraction of a percent" of those 60 million people who've been denied access to Microsoft updates and downloads are guilty, guilty, guilty. Right."

Because we need to train them to pass drug tests, just like professional athletes?,,1840997,00.html

US drug chief promotes random testing in schools

Sarah Boseley, health editor Thursday August 10, 2006 The Guardian

America's drug tsar raised the stakes on drug testing in schools yesterday, suggesting that it could come to be seen as normal required and "responsible behaviour" in the same way that some US schools routinely test all pupils for tuberculosis before admission.

What do they know that we don’t know? What do they know?

Homeland Security: Fix your Windows

By Joris Evers Story last modified Wed Aug 09 11:46:51 PDT 2006

In a rare alert, the U.S. Department of Homeland Security has urged Windows users to plug a potential worm hole in the Microsoft operating system.

The agency, which also runs the United States Computer Emergency Readiness Team (US-CERT), sent out a news release on Wednesday recommending that people apply Microsoft's MS06-040 patch as quickly as possible. The software maker released the "critical" fix Tuesday as part of its monthly patch cycle.

"Users are encouraged to avoid delay in applying this security patch," the Department of Homeland Security said in the statement. The patch fixes a serious flaw that, if exploited, could enable an attacker to remotely take complete control of an affected system, the agency said.

Microsoft on Tuesday issued a dozen security bulletins, nine of which were tagged "critical," the company's highest severity rating. However, the flaw addressed in MS06-040 is the only one among the updates that could let an anonymous attacker remotely commandeer a Windows PC without any user interaction.

The flaw has some similarities to the Windows bug that enabled the notorious MSBlast worm to spread in 2003. Both security vulnerabilities are related to a Windows component called "remote procedure call," which provides support for networking features such as file sharing and printer sharing.

"Blaster took advantage of a vulnerability in the same service. We recognize that this is something that is easily exploitable," said Amol Sarwate, the manager of vulnerability research lab at Qualys. "It is excellent that DHS sent out this alert, because I think a lot of people are vulnerable."

Microsoft has seen a "very limited attack" that already used the newly disclosed flaw, the software maker said Tuesday.

Overnight, some hacker toolkits were updated with code that allows researchers to check for the flaw and exploit it, said Neel Mehta, a security expert at Internet Security Systems in Atlanta.

"This is a very serious vulnerability," Mehta said. "At the moment, this exploit is being used in targeted attacks to compromise specific systems. However, there is nothing about the nature of the vulnerability that prevents it from being used in a much more widespread fashion as part of a worm."

Microsoft worked with the Department of Homeland Security on the alert, a company representative said. "Microsoft...encourages customers to deploy this update on their systems as soon as possible, given that we are aware of targeted exploitation of the vulnerability," the representative said.

Microsoft deems the vulnerability critical for all versions of Windows. However, users of Windows XP with Service Pack 2 and Windows Server 2003 with Service Pack 1 should be protected by the Windows Firewall if they do not use file sharing and printer sharing, Christopher Budd, a security program manager at Microsoft, said in an interview Tuesday.

The Microsoft updates are available via the Windows Update and Automatic Updates tools as well as from Microsoft's Web site. Temporary workarounds are outlined in the security bulletins for those who can't immediately apply the patches.

Who do you go to when you can't trust the FBI to get it right?,1759,2001528,00.asp?kc=EWRSS03119TX1K0000594

VA Announces Data Breach Analysis Contract

August 9, 2006 By Wayne Rash

The Department of Veterans Affairs is hiring ID Analytics to perform data breach analysis to ensure that information on 26.5 million veterans contained on a stolen laptop was not compromised. The laptop has since been recovered. According to a release from the VA, ID Analytics will look for patterns of misuse and suspicious activity related to the theft.

"Data breach analysis will provide VA with additional assurances that veterans' personal information remains unharmed," Secretary R. James Nicholson said in a statement.

Before two men were charged with the theft on Aug. 5, the agency had promised that it would exercise an abundance of caution and perform data breach analysis to make sure veterans' information was safeguarded.

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs earlier hired ISS for a data theft investigation. Click here to read more.

According to the release, hiring ID Analytics fulfills that promise. ID Analytics offers a real-time tracking system that is widely used by retail and credit card issuers, along with wireless companies and finance companies.

"VA remains unwavering in its resolve to become the leader in protecting personal information, training and educating our employees in best practices, and establishing a culture that always puts the safekeeping of veterans' personal information first," Nicholson said in the statement.

Spokesperson Matthew Burns said the VA would be sending a letter to veterans this week explaining the situation regarding another computer theft, that of a computer stolen the week of July 31 from Unisys, a contractor for the VA.

Burns said the VA will also send out a letter to affected veterans telling them how to sign up for a credit monitoring service to be provided by Unisys. Burns said some details remain to be worked out, but said both letters would go out in the next day or two.

U.S. Transport Dept laptop with personal data stolen

Thu Aug 10, 2006 9:00 AM IST

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - A U.S. government computer loaded with approximately 133,000 drivers' and pilots' records - including Social Security numbers -- was stolen last month, the Department of Transportation said on Wednesday.

The department's Office of Inspector General said one of its laptops was taken from a government vehicle in Doral, Florida, on July 27. The agency is sending letters to those whose information may have been compromised.

... The stolen Transportation Department computer included information from more than 80,000 commercial driver's licenses issued in the Miami-Dade County area. The data included drivers' names, Social Security numbers and dates of birth, the agency said.

The laptop also had 42,800 records for people issued pilot licenses in Florida by the Federal Aviation Administration, and 9,500 Tampa area drivers' licenses, the department said. Those records also included names, Social Security numbers, and dates of birth.

"The laptop is password protected, and it is unlikely that the perpetrators stole it based on any knowledge of its data contents," the inspector general's office said in a letter to those affected.

The information on licenses had been collected as part of investigations into possible fraud, according to the letter. A $10,000 reward has been posted for information leading to the recovery of the laptop, the inspector general said.

Is this like getting a list of companies wearing “Sue Me!” T-shirts?

August 09, 2006

New Report Tracks the Origin and Path of Unwanted Internet Ads

Press release: "More than half of the pop-up ads served by nuisance "adware" programs are placed knowingly by advertisers, according to a study released today by the Center for Democracy & Technology (CDT)."

  • Following the Money II: The Role of Intermediaries in Adware Advertising (28 pages, PDF)

This is interesting, perhaps even useful. Will it be enough for large customers to upgrade to Vista? Somehow I doubt it.

Vista speech recognition screencast: It works!

Published August 8th, 2006 in blog, windows, vista, video

Surprise surprise. Windows Vista speech recognition actually works. Contrary to what MSNBC criticize as a ‘wreck’, the speech recognition technology is well developed and highly usable. I got my hands on the July CTP build (5472) of Windows Vista and gave it a try, and I recorded what I found. I used the internal microphone array in my laptop, so the sound quality is not optimal but Vista handled it well.

This screencast focuses on the areas of speech recognotion including: dictation, commands, selecting alternatives, ’show numbers’, ‘mouse grid’, mouse functions, web browsing, and keyboard functions. The following video contains mild coarse language, strong violence and parental guidance is advised.

Links to 23 Penn and Teller: Bullshit episodes

23 free full length videos of Penn and Teller: Bullshit, one of the best shows on TV!

Wednesday, August 09, 2006

Anonymous? How 18th century!

A Face Is Exposed for AOL Searcher No. 4417749

By MICHAEL BARBARO and TOM ZELLER Jr. August 9, 2006

Buried in a list of 20 million Web search queries collected by AOL and recently released on the Internet is user No. 4417749. The number was assigned by the company to protect the searcher’s anonymity, but it was not much of a shield.

No. 4417749 conducted hundreds of searches over a three-month period on topics ranging from “numb fingers” to “60 single men” to “dog that urinates on everything.”

And search by search, click by click, the identity of AOL user No. 4417749 became easier to discern. There are queries for “landscapers in Lilburn, Ga,” several people with the last name Arnold and “homes sold in shadow lake subdivision gwinnett county georgia.”

It did not take much investigating to follow that data trail to Thelma Arnold, a 62-year-old widow who lives in Lilburn, Ga., frequently researches her friends’ medical ailments and loves her three dogs. “Those are my searches,” she said, after a reporter read part of the list to her.

AOL removed the search data from its site over the weekend and apologized for its release, saying it was an unauthorized move by a team that had hoped it would benefit academic researchers.

But the detailed records of searches conducted by Ms. Arnold and 657,000 other Americans, copies of which continue to circulate online, underscore how much people unintentionally reveal about themselves when they use search engines — and how risky it can be for companies like AOL, Google and Yahoo to compile such data.


Cases & Course Materials

ChoicePoint (A)

Harvard Business School Case 306-001

The CEO of ChoicePoint, a leading company in the rapidly growing U.S. personal data industry, must reexamine the company's business model after a serious breach of data security affecting some 145,000 U.S. citizens. He must decide on steps to strengthen data protection in the company and clarify his stance on regulating a largely unregulated industry.

Purchase this case:

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ChoicePoint (B)

Harvard Business School Supplement 306-082

Supplements the (A) case.

Purchase this case:

Blogging All the Way to Jail

Posted by ScuttleMonkey on Wednesday August 09, @07:41AM from the takin-one-for-the-team dept. The Courts The Internet

Glyn writes "Time magazine is reporting on Josh Wolf the 'first blogger to be targeted by federal authorities for not cooperating with a grand jury.' Josh would have normally been protected from government coercion by California state shield laws but the prosecutors have argued its a federal matter, using quite shaky logic. Josh's blog is being updated by his mother, providing updates on what is happening. From the article: '"Not only does this logic seem silly," Wolf told TIME in June after receiving his final subpoena, "but if unchallenged it will have a deleterious effect on the state protections afforded to many journalists, both independent and those that are part of the established media." Judge William Alsup of Federal District Court rejected Wolf's arguments, and declared him in contempt of court. So he is now being held in a detention center in Dublin, Calif, where he could remain until next July.'"

[From the article: On Tuesday, Wolf was thrown into federal prison for refusing to testify before a U.S. grand jury and for failing to hand over unpublished video footage he shot during a raucous clash on the streets between San Francisco police officers and anti-G8 protesters last year. Wolf posted some of the video on his blog, and some clips were aired on TV newscasts that later paid Wolf for the footage. But the feds are demanding to see everything that wasn't made public. They allege that the unused portion of Wolf's video may show the patrol car being set afire — part of a federal crime, the government asserts. Wolf denies there is an attempted arson on his videotape.

Is this our future? Will DoJ not argue that we should have laws (and capabilities) equal to our allies?

The UK's Total Surveillance

Posted by Zonk on Tuesday August 08, @09:29AM from the queen-watches-what-you-eat dept. Privacy Technology

Budenny writes "The Register has a story in its ongoing coverage of the UK ID Card story. This one suggests, with links to a weekend news story, that the Prime Minister in waiting has bought the idea that all electronic transactions in the UK should be linked to a central government/police database. Every cash withdrawal, every credit card purchase, ever loyalty card use ... And that data should flow back from the police database to (eg) a loyalty card use. So, for example, not only would the government know what books you were buying, but the bookstore would also know if you had an outstanding speeding ticket!"

Tracking the Congressional attention span

8/3/2006 2:01:42 PM, by Nate Anderson

While text mining 330,000 New York Times articles poses an interesting challenge, it's not as interesting as sifting through 70 million words (from over 70,000 unique documents) found in the Congressional Record. A team of political science researchers has done just that (PDF), and found that their software was able to answer questions too difficult for humans to handle on their own.

Isn't this obvious?

Federal appeals court rules against workplace PC privacy

Bob Egelko, Chronicle Staff Writer Tuesday, August 8, 2006

(08-08) 17:27 PDT SAN FRANCISCO -- If you think the Web sites you access on your workplace computer are nobody else's business, think again.

That was the message today from the Ninth U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco, which upheld a Montana man's conviction for receiving obscene material that his employer found on his computer during a late-night raid.

"Social norms suggest that employees are not entitled to privacy in the use of workplace computers, which belong to their employers and pose significant dangers in terms of diminished productivity and even employer liability,'' said Judge Diarmuid O'Scannlain in the 3-0 ruling.

... "It seems like it's one more intrusion on people's privacy rights,'' he said. "There may be some things on my computer that I wouldn't necessarily mind someone at my office looking at, but I wouldn't want to share them with (law enforcement agents) or even the community at large.'' [Can we pick and choose our audience? Is there any form of sharing that can exclude law enforcement? Bob]

Ness' client, Jeffrey Ziegler, was director of operations for Frontline Processing, a Bozeman, Mont., company that handled on-line electronic payments. An FBI agent learned in January 2001 that an employee had accessed child pornography on a company computer and contacted Frontline's Internet technology administrator. [Probably not a manager, certainly not a corporate officer. Bob] The administrator said the Web sites had been traced to Ziegler's computer and that the company then started monitoring the computer with a recording device. [Official company policy or an intimidated employee's reaction to an FBI request? Bob]

At 10 p.m. that day, the court said, the administrator and his assistant got a key to Ziegler's office, entered and made copies of the computer hard drive, which they turned over to the FBI. While reserving the right to challenge the search, Ziegler pleaded guilty to one count of receiving obscene material and was fined $1,000 and placed on probation.

In today's ruling, the court said Frontline had notified its employees before Ziegler's arrest that their computers were company property, were not to be used for personal activities and were subject to monitoring. The court cited a 2001 American Management Association study, quoted in a California court decision, that said more than three-quarters of the nation's major firms monitored employee communications on the job, including e-mails and phone calls.

"Employer monitoring is largely an assumed practice,'' O'Scannlain said.

[More ... Bob]

August 9, 2006

No Workplace Privacy Rights in Computer Used to Store Child Porn

... United States v. Ziegler, No. 05-30177 (9th Cir., Aug. 8, 2006)

There's a market for translations like this...

The RIAA vs. John Doe, a Layperson's Guide

Posted by ScuttleMonkey on Tuesday August 08, @06:11AM from the i'm-the-juggernaut dept.

Grant Robertson writes to tell us that he has made a pass at translating a recent guide to surviving an RIAA lawsuit from technical lawyer-speak into a much more easy to understand layperson's guide. The law, being complex and sometimes cryptic, allows ways for the RIAA to tilt the odds in their favor forcing unsuspecting victims to settle rather than fight. Take a look at Ray Beckerman's tips to survival translated into words anyone can benefit from.

My “one more week” is still going on... Reducing the impact on employees increases the costs of discovery.

For e-discovery, the times, they are a-changin'

By Eric J. Sinrod Story last modified Wed Aug 09 05:31:14 PDT 2006

Fasten your seatbelts, legal mavens. In less than six months, electronic discovery as we know it will undergo very important changes.

Amendments to the Federal Rules of Civil Procedure (FRCP) that take effect on Dec. 1 were supposed to help reduce litigation costs. The paradox is that electronic discovery costs may increase, especially with respect to work that must be performed within the first 120 days after a lawsuit has commenced.

The purpose of these new rules is to provide early structure, uniformity and predictability. But the reality is that right from the get-go, the parties in a lawsuit will need to start evaluating with their IT teams and outside counsel where they stand in terms of their own electronic data.

Easier said than done. Hunting for the relevant electronic information in a lawsuit can take time. Data may be located live on the network or on various servers. It may be in hard drives, laptops, PDAs--or on backup tapes.

Figuring out the logistics helps determine what electronic discovery to demand from the other side in a case. Plainly, a party should not expect to demand a category of electronic discovery that it's not willing to produce.

Keep in mind that electronic discovery is expensive. Cases often get resolved before the parties and counsel have invested time and effort--not to mention the expense--of carrying out electronic discovery search, retrieval and production procedures. By forcing these processes early on in a case--at least in federal courts, by way of the new FRCP amendments--opposing sides in a legal dispute will have no choice but to move forward with electronic discovery right from the start.

What's more, the new rules will broaden the definition of electronic items that may be subject to discovery from "documents" or "data compilations" to include all electronically stored information.

In the past, parties to a lawsuit might have tried to shield certain types of electronic information from discovery. But when the new rules take effect, the other side conceivably will be able to demand everything from standard Word documents and e-mails to voicemail messages, instant messages, blogs, backup tapes and database files.

Of course, they still can argue that the burden of any particular demand outweighs the potential probative value of the electronic information sought. For example, demanding parties cannot automatically expect that responding parties will restore and produce backup tapes. Responding parties can assert that these tapes are not reasonably accessible and that their production would cause undue burden. They can also claim that the value of the tapes pales in comparison to the recovery and production efforts that would be required.

Given that the provision of electronic discovery is burdensome and could be extremely costly if every bit of electronic data were reviewed very carefully prior to production, the new rules will allow parties to retrieve inadvertently produced privileged information. Because it is not difficult to mistakenly produce privileged or proprietary electronic information, some very sensitive trade secret information should be designated as "highly confidential" for the eyes of outside counsel only.

There has been a lot of worry about potential spoliation (destruction of evidence) arguments when certain electronic information has not been saved. Judges now will have the discretion to disallow sanctions when a party has lost electronic information as a result of the regular good-faith running of an electronic information system. Still, parties must have in place solid data retention policies and practices covering information that could be appropriate for electronic discovery.

None of the foregoing requirements are easy or cheap. But increasingly, we will need to deal with the burdens of the electronic age and not just its benefits.

August 08, 2006

Terror Finance Tracking Program Revelations Leave Public Divided

The Pew Research Center for the People and the Press: Public Holds Conflicting Views of Press Reports about Government Monitoring Bank Records, Released August 8, 2006.

  • "Summary of Findings - The public is of two minds about news reports that the government has been secretly examining the bank records of American citizens who may have ties to terrorist groups. By a margin of 50%-34%, Americans think that news organizations have hurt rather than helped the interests of the American people with these reports. However, an even larger 65%-28% majority believes that these news accounts told citizens something that they should know about."

Note how poorly DHS secures its computers... Would they even know if Osama was “reading their mail?”

August 08, 2006

DHS OIG InfoTech Audit

Information Technology Management Letter for the FY 2005 DHS Financial Statement Audit (Redacted), OIG-06-49 (PDF, 77 pages), 08/07/2006.

How to find a viable business model? Look for unsatisfied demand!

Bands With Online Popularity Want More Than A Gig In Second Life

from the turning-friends-into-fans dept

There was a time when bands would jokingly describe themselves as being "Big in Belgium", particularly if they had no discernible fan base locally. It's time to update that phrase to "Big on MySpace", as more and more bands are spreading their music and gaining loyal fans through the popular site. But while it's not new that bands are using MySpace to promote themselves, record labels should take note that many are finding it difficult to convert their online popularity to steady pay. The record labels are making a mistake by refusing to offer their services a la carte. If a band can do their own promotion, but needs help on the business and distribution side, then the labels should be eager to help out. At the moment, labels are skeptical of any band that claims only online popularity, citing the ability to game MySpace's friend lists. But it's pretty easy to discover what bands have passionate fans and which ones are just good at hyping themselves. Certainly, the music industry knows what hype looks like after all these years.

I told you this was useful technology.

Who Needs Harvard When You Can Blog?

from the withering-on-the-vine dept

Advances in technology have lowered the barriers to entry in many entrenched industries, and in turn have threatened incumbent industry leaders. One area, which isn't perceived to have seen much change is higher education, as the elite universities seem to be blessed with unlimited demand for admittance at almost any price. But while perception remains unchanged, technology may be eroding the advantages held by top universities. A new study suggests a professor's productivity (as defined by the amount of work published) used to be tied very closely to the professor's university, and that a professor moving from a second-tier school to Harvard could expect a major jump in productivity, simply by having access to the top minds in their field. But as the internet and other communication technologies have made it easier for academics to share information with others in their field (not just at one's own university), the relationship between one's output, and that of others at the same university has been eliminated. The rise of professors who write blogs on their subject is part of this trend, as more high-level discussion occurs outside the campus setting. Along the same lines, there's been a move to create high-quality, free academic journals, further eroding pockets of concentrated academic power. It may be too early to say the the notion of a university will undergo the same sort of spasms as other centrally controlled clusters, like TV networks, but the rise of peer-to-peer networking in academia should disrupt the dominance of a small group of elite institutions.

Pity a city and a bunch of poor doctors. Obviously they can't afford lawyers to review these contracts...

Make Sure Your Software Vendors Can't Lock Up Your Most Important Assets

from the an-important-lesson dept

Two totally separate stories today highlight the importance of recognizing the difference between "owning" a piece of software and just "licensing" it (an issue that's getting some attention in the courts these days). First comes the story of the parking garage in New Jersey that operates with a giant parking robot that moves the cars around, making more efficient use of the space. There was a contract dispute with the company who runs the parking robot, and its employees were kicked off the premises, taking the intellectual property rights of the software that runs the robot with them -- leaving the giant parking robot and the cars it had parked stuck in park. Then, there's the story of a bunch of doctors offices who used some proprietary patient medical records software called Dr. Notes. The company behind Dr. Notes decided to raise their license fees by a huge amount -- and doctors who refused to give in suddenly discovered they could no longer access their patients' records, presenting a fairly serious problem for those whose well-being depend on their doctor knowing their medical history. In both cases, the companies providing the licenses recognized (correctly) that this allowed them a tremendous amount of leverage in any future contract negotiation, since they could (literally, in some cases) lock up their customers' most important assets. For companies buying technology products who think things like the details of intellectual property law and licenses don't matter, perhaps these stories will make them a little more aware of a few of the reasons why it's important to understand what you license and what you own -- and recognizing that you never want to trust your most important assets to an outside vendor.

Serious implications or “it was obvious?”

It's your fantasy

Judge rules statistics not intellectual property of MLB

Posted: Tuesday August 8, 2006 7:07PM; Updated: Tuesday August 8, 2006 7:30PM

ST. LOUIS (AP) -- Fantasy baseball leagues are allowed to use player names and statistics without licensing agreements because they are not the intellectual property of Major League Baseball, a federal judge ruled Tuesday.

Baseball and its players have no right to prevent the use of names and playing records, U.S. District Court Judge Mary Ann Medler in St. Louis ruled in a 49-page summary judgment.

... But even if the players could claim the right of publicity against commercial ventures by others, Medler wrote, the First Amendment takes precedent because CBC, which runs CDM Fantasy Sports, is disseminating the same statistical information found in newspapers every day. [So if I can find the information online, I can consider it “free for the taking?” Bob]

"The names and playing records of major league baseball players as used in CBC's fantasy games are not copyrightable," Medler wrote. "Therefore, federal copyright law does not pre-empt the players' claimed right of publicity."

... Like many other fantasy baseball leagues, CBC had a licensing agreement with the MLBPA from 1995 through the 2004 season and paid 9 percent of gross royalties [Kiss that goodbye... Bob]to the association. The company now believes it shouldn't have to pay for the right to use statistics.

... "The idea on MLB's part is if you can scare all of the little companies out of the market," Colton said, "you can collect more money."