Saturday, August 19, 2006

Now you see the bones of our (the geeks) evil plot. We're going to automate everything and rule the world!

Taking The Journalists Out Of Journalism

from the replaced dept

Stories about different jobs being replaced by computers have been a favorite for journalists over the years -- now it's some of those journalists being replaced by computers. The Thomson Financial news service says that it will expand the use of computers to write automated stories, mainly on things like earnings reports, which it can churn out as quickly as 0.3 seconds. These sorts of stories are the stock and trade of financial newswires, with speed and accuracy the two most important elements, so there's no reason a computer shouldn't be used to quickly digest a company's earnings report, compare the results to the previous year's, then spit out a quick story -- which typically follows a rigid format, even when written by a human. And, of course, it's cheaper than employing a small army of human writers, but Thomson says speed is the only consideration here (though surely the cost savings don't hurt), and that the system will free up reporters for more thought-intensive tasks, which is how these types of project should be approached: using technology to automate menial tasks to allow human resources to be allocated to other tasks computers can't handle. [Like fetching coffee for us geeks. Bob] Thomson says it's been working on different types of software to write different types of stories, making us wonder how long before they release their summer rerun program, freeing up their writers for a nice mid-year break.

Is this the start of a new government initiative? Will all businesses have to become terrorist watchdogs? What happens if a programmer simplifies things and just flags everyone with a middle-eastern name? (“Your name is written in Arabic, therefore...”) Certainly looks like the kind of thing an Identity Thief could make use of...

PayPal freezes out British user in 'terror' list snafu

By Chris Williams ( Published Friday 18th August 2006 14:58 GMT

PayPal has frozen Brit Mohammed Hassan's account and banned him from using the service if he refuses to fax the company a raft of personal information.

The online payments service told him his name is "similar to or a match to" a name on the US government's anti-terror assets freezing list.

The Office of Foreign Assets Control Specially Designated Nationals List (SDN) is operated by the US Treasury and designed to prevent money laundering and funding of illegal organisations.

The SDN list is here ( (.pdf). It contains hundreds of names, including Osama Bin Laden and a Tunisian named Mohamed Hassan.

Register reader Mohammed received the following email last week:

Access to your PayPal account has been denied because your name is similar to or a match to an entry on the Office of Foreign Assets Control Specially Designated Nationals (SDN) list. We are required to further verify your identity. In order to regain access to your account, please provide the following documentation:

1. A copy of government-issued photograph identification (i.e. passport, driver's license).

2. A copy of a utility bill verifying your address

3. A copy of a document verifying your date and place of birth.

Please fax the information to +1 303-395-2802, Attention: Compliance. The documents may also be mailed to the following address:

PayPal, Attention: Compliance P.O. Box 45950 Omaha, NE 68145, United States

Please provide the requested information within the next 30 days. If this information is not received within the next 30 days, your PayPal account will be closed.

We contacted PayPal with a series of questions. They confirmed that in Mohammed Hassan's case, his account will be closed unless he faxes his passport to them - action he told us he is not willing to take on priniciple. Unlike banks, PayPal does not require identity verification to set up an account. [“Unless we want to discriminate against your kind.” Bob]

PayPal refused to provide any details of how many customers the bans are affecting, or whether the policy had led to any genuine terrorist assets being seized.

Mohammed works for the UK government, in a job which requires security clearance. He said: "I am not a terrorist or a criminal. How the hell can PayPal link me to that name on the SDN list, is it because my name is Arabic? Or is it because PayPal are just plain stupid?"

We love our customers, but not enough to warn them.

Dell, Sony discussed battery problem 10 months ago

Sony made changes to minimize the problem but did not recall suspect batteries because it wasn't clear that they were dangerous [i.e. No one had died? Bob]

By Paul F. Roberts August 18, 2006

Dell and Sony knew about and discussed manufacturing problems with Sony-made Lithium-Ion batteries as long as ten months ago, but held off on issuing a recall until those flaws were clearly linked to catastrophic failures causing those batteries to catch fire, a Sony Electronics spokesman said Friday.

... Dell is reported to have known about incidents of laptops overheating, albeit in small numbers, for years. It and CPSC recalled 22,000 laptop batteries in December, 2005, because of overheating problems. Metal particle contamination was the cause behind that recall, as well, said Scott Wolfson, a CPSC spokesman.

... Catastrophic failures of the Li-ion batteries, though rare, can be "very dramatic," Doughty said. "You get a lot of fireworks."

Your tax dollars at play. (Well, they obviously aren't working!)

Where's The Checkbox For 'New FBI Computer System Is So Bad I Plan To Go On A Crime Spree'?

from the nice-work dept

Back in 2004, we wrote about how hundreds of millions of dollars had been spent over the previous four years on a new computer system for the FBI that apparently didn't actually work and was useless at finding terrorists. After that was announced, it still took the FBI another seven months before announcing they were getting rid of the system. After that, it still took another year for them to agree to spend hundreds of millions on a new system that won't be ready until 2009 at the earliest. Is it any wonder that FBI employees who are working on the computer system already feel the need to hack the system just to get some work done?

If you're wondering how this all came to be, the Washington Post has now done an in-depth report on just how screwed up the process was for building the FBI's computer system. Basically, the FBI handed the project over to the government's favorite secretive tech supplier, SAIC. Rather than actively manage the process, they more or less let SAIC define what it should do. There's some disagreement over who made this decision, but it included having SAIC build a system from scratch -- rather than modify available off-the-shelf offerings (something the FBI insists it won't do this time). So, you have a government contractor given a multi-million computer project, little oversight and loosely defined objectives. SAIC did pretty much what you'd expect. They took a lot of money from the government (or, if you'd like, from the taxpayers), wrote lots of code, but didn't bother much to make sure it did what the FBI needed it to do. The best part of the article is the quote from a computer science professor who reviewed the system and noted the pure stupidity of trying to launch an entirely new computer system at once with no backup plan, rather than phase it in gradually: "A bunch of us were planning on committing a crime spree the day they switched over. If the new system didn't work, it would have just put the FBI out of business." Comforting, huh?

This is actually very clever. The Post gets new content (which it can pick and choose, yet they can still deny responsibility) and even more places to stick its ads.

What is the Sponsored Blogroll?

The Sponsored Blogroll is an index on the homepage that promotes bloggers who are participating in a partnership with the advertising team of WPNI. If you are a blogger or blog network looking to expand your readership and advertising, our Sponsored Blogroll program can be the boost you've been looking for.

Should the police be allowed to make secret arrests?

August 18, 2006

More Threats for Videotaping Police

This time in Massachusetts.

It's an odd case, with all sorts of strange twists and turns. But the gist of the case is that the state police and prosecutors are threatening a woman with crimnal sanctions for posting video of an arrest on her website. Not only that, but state prosecutors are apparently threatening other websites (actually, the website of the man arrested in the video) for merely linking to the video.

The case caught the attention of the Boston Phoenix, which gave the prosecutor and state police one of it's "Muzzle Awards" for suppressing free speech. The paper sums up what's at stake rather succinctly:

Since no one other than the State Police objects to the videos being posted, we must assume that it is they who believe their rights are somehow being violated. But how can that be? They are seen carrying out their public duties: arresting a citizen and temporarily depriving him of his freedom. Our right to keep tabs on how the police use that power is vital.

Again -- it should never, ever be illegal to record the actions of an on-duty police officer.

...and don't forget to look at it with a variety of browsers.

Online Font Tester

MatthewDoucette submitted by MatthewDoucette 16 hours 36 minutes ago (via )

Online font comparison tool.

Look at them now. Don't wait until you're on a deadline.

List of nifty tools for drawing diagrams, charts and flow-charts

Aug 18, 11:53 AM


Free Web-Tools

Free Software

Leading commercial products:


Get Back Your Lost Files: File Recovery Software

August 18, 2006 By Michael W. Muchmore

Of course, prevention (in this case read "backup") is the best medicine [Amen. Bob] when it comes to lost files, whether as a result of disk malfunctions or your mistakenly deleting them. But for those of us with less foresight, there's utility software that can save our skins when it comes disappeared files. Today, we investigate three leading software products that claim to be able to find and recover files you've deleted or lost to a bad disk drive or media:

Just another reminder to consider protecting your critical data.,1759,2002421,00.asp

Microsoft Office Under Siege

By Ryan Naraine August 13, 2006

News Analysis: Attackers and flaw finders are pounding away at Microsoft Office applications, discovering new ways to attack millions of Windows machines. Can Microsoft cope with the deluge of flaws?

What started as an amusing eBay listing of an Excel vulnerability for sale has developed into an all-out hacker assault on Microsoft Office applications.

Security researchers and malicious hackers have zeroed in on the desktop productivity suite, using specialized "fuzzing" tools to find a wide range of critical vulnerabilities in Word, Excel and PowerPoint file formats.

The upsurge in reported Office flaws has put Microsoft on high alert for targeted zero-day attacks that have all the characteristics of characteristics of corporate espionage—highly targeted and using Trojan horse programs to drop keyloggers and data theft malware programs, according to information from anti-virus vendor Symantec.

Friday, August 18, 2006

This was inevitable. It remains to be seen if it did its job and pushed the legal envelope in the desired direction. I suspect not. One issue remains. How best can we do this when it is truly required? Could we have a “hot pursuit” exception? If Osama starts calling his people in the middle east, giving them a “go” for the next 9/11, and them calls a US number, could we agree that is likely to be of interest? Might make an interesting article...

August 17, 2006

Federal Judge Rules NSA Domestic Surveillance Program Unconstitutional

  • Via U.S. District Court, ED of Michigan, ACLU v National Security Agency, 44 pages, PDF.

  • "Description: In the first federal challenge ever argued against the Bush administration's NSA spying program, U.S. District Court Judge Anna Diggs Taylor rules that the program to monitor the phone calls and e-mails of millions of Americans without warrants is unconstitutional. Calling for a halt to this abuse of presidential power, Judge Taylor states that "[t]here are no hereditary Kings in America and no powers not created by the Constitution," so all the president's "inherent powers" must derive from the Constitution."

  • The First Amendment as Criminal Procedure, by Daniel J. Solove, George Washington University Law School, August 17, 2006, GWU Law School Public Law Research Paper No. 217: "This article explores the relationship between the First Amendment and criminal procedure. These two domains of constitutional law have long existed as separate worlds, rarely interacting with each other. But many instances of government information gathering can implicate First Amendment interests such as freedom of speech, association, and religion. The Fourth and Fifth Amendments used to provide considerable protection for First Amendment interests, as in the famous 1886 case, Boyd v. United States, where the Supreme Court held that the government was prohibited from seizing a person's private papers. Over time, however, Fourth and Fifth Amendment protection shifted, and now countless searches and seizures involving people's private papers, the books they read, the websites they surf, the pen names they use when writing anonymously, and so on fall completely outside of the protection of constitutional criminal procedure. Professor Solove argues that the First Amendment provides protection against government information gathering implicating First Amendment interests. He contends that there are doctrinal, historical, and normative justifications to develop what he calls “First Amendment criminal procedure.” Solove sets forth an approach to determine when certain instances of government information gathering fall within the regulatory domain of the First Amendment and what level of protection the First Amendment should provide."

Is this so different from life in small town America? “Look, that's Betty Lou's son. He got drunk last week and drove through Thelma's rose garden...” Only differences I see is the culture in Korea and the “size” of the virtual small town.

Korea's Online Aggression a Taste of the Future?

Posted by timothy on Thursday August 17, @12:41PM from the smart-mobs-redefined dept. The Internet

DerGeist writes "Imagine your life ruined by an organized mob that convicts with scant, unreliable evidence. Fueled only by hearsay and rumors, an invisible horde of your fellow citizens begins bombarding your snailbox, email, phone, work, school and family with threats, insults and general harassment. You are forced to drop out of school and quit your job as a result of constant attacks. You are shunned and ridiculed in public as anywhere you go, you are instantly recognized. Although it may seem to be just a second-rate Hollywood nightmare scenario reminiscent of "The Net," this sort of "organized mob" justice is being dealt out freely in South Korea where net usage is booming. So freely, in fact, that almost 1 in 10 of 13-65 year-olds has felt its sting. Could this trend hit the U.S.? Will policing net behavior eventually become necessary?" [Virtual Law Bob]

This is an example of a trivial (almost a hobby) database. But it could be designed to allow the schools to update their record, and if you could charge them $10 a year for the privilege...

August 18, 2006

Database of Public and Private Schools, Google-Mapped

Filed under: Reference-Education

I didn’t even know there WERE 130,000 public and private K-12 schools in the US. Well, apparently there are, and now you can search them, get some demographic information, and even a Google map at

Wow! Someone got it very wrong. Perhaps a license would have been cheaper?

TiVo Wins Permanent Injunction Against EchoStar

Posted by CowboyNeal on Friday August 18, @03:23AM from the tuning-out dept. Television The Courts Media The Almighty Buck

ZenFodderBoy writes "It's official! Judge Folsom entered his ruling today granting TiVo nearly $90 million in damages, plus granting a permanent injunction calling for the disabling of nearly all of EchoStar's DVRs within the next 30 days. EchoStar's motion to stay the injunction pending appeal was denied. Additionally, the judge reserves the right to grant additional damages in the future, so treble damages may still be coming. Excellent news for TiVo!"

If you no longer charge subscription fees, you gotta make a buck somehow!

AOL security tools raise adware questions

Active Virus Shield's license agreement would allow AOL to send spam or serve up adware

By Robert McMillan, IDG News Service August 18, 2006

Just days after posting details of searches made by hundreds of thousands of subscribers, AOL is in hot water again with consumer advocates. This time the issue is with the company's Active Virus Shield anti-virus software, released last week.

At issue is the software's licensing agreement, which authorizes AOL to gather and share data on how the software is being used and permits AOL and its affiliates to send e-mail to users. "If you go through the installation, just as any normal user would, there is not the slightest hint of any advertising functionality or data gathering of any kind," said Eric Howes, director of malware research at anti-spyware vendor Sunbelt Software.

Active Virus Shield uses Kaspersky Lab's well-regarded anti-virus software, and comes with an optional security toolbar that blocks pop-up ads and manages passwords. The software is available for free to anyone who wishes to download it and can be found here.

Although security experts, including Howes, say that Active Virus Shield does not behave in a malicious fashion or serve up unwanted ads, some are concerned that the product's end user license agreement (EULA) would allow AOL to send spam or serve up adware at some point in the future. "If it actually does any of the things stated in the EULA, we would actually flag it as spyware," said Christina Olson, a project manager with

... "The problem is similar to the Sony rootkit issue," Raff said referring to Sony BMG Music Entertainment's notorious copy protection software, which was found to be the source of security issues late last year. "A big company chose an external company's software and rebranded it as their own, later to discover it might be bad after all," he said. [Due diligence? Bob]

They're not being rude, they're being Japanese. (Wasn't Sony a Japanese company once?),1759,2004629,00.asp?kc=EWRSS03119TX1K0000594

Japan PC Makers Say No Sony Battery Recall Needed

By Reuters August 17, 2006

TOKYO (Reuters)—Fujitsu Ltd. and other Japanese computer makers said on Thursday that no recall of batteries made by Sony Corp. was necessary as their computers were designed to avoid overheating.

Think of the old economic truism about debasing currency... This is inevitable!,1759,2004864,00.asp?kc=EWRSS03119TX1K0000594

VD Giveaways Signal Woes of Once-Booming Format

August 17, 2006 By Jeffrey Goldfarb, Reuters

LONDON (Reuters)—British newspapers are now giving away free as many DVDs as are being purchased in stores, revealing a stealth contributing factor to the decline of Hollywood's cash cow format.

The cover-mounted DVD giveaways, which have included "Prizzi's Honor" and "Donnie Darko," devalue the format in the eyes of consumers, one-quarter of whom said they would have bought the same title if they had seen it in shops for a reasonable price, [The concept is called “willing and able” and since they weren't willing at that price, there was no demand. Bob] according to a report released on Thursday.

They have a pre-existing relationship. The information is public (free for the asking, in fact). What's the big deal? Isn't this actually a free version of the yellow pages?

China site offers name cards without consent: Xinhua

Thu Aug 17, 2006 4:41 AM ET

BEIJING (Reuters) - A Chinese Web site has sparked controversy by posting information from 2 million people's business cards without their consent and winning 5 million visits a month, Xinhua news agency said on Thursday., named after the Chinese word for business card, offers people's mobile phone and office numbers and email and company addresses for free, Xinhua said.

"Many of the name cards were contributed by our staff through their personal connections," [Okay, there goes the pre-existing relationship argument... Bob] it quoted the Web site's press officer as saying.

Viewers can accumulate points by contributing names or inviting friends to log on to the site, the Web site said.

"I never revealed my information to this Web site and it violates my privacy," it quoted Mao Qinglin, marketing manager for the personal computer giant Lenovo, whose name was the most clicked IT contact on the site, as saying. [“I just can't deal with all these business offers!” Bob]

In an ongoing effort to prove they NEVER arrest people for no reason...

Phone Resellers Avoid Trumped-Up Terrorism Charges, Now Face Trumped-Up Fraud Charges Instead

from the saving-face dept

Some good news came for the three Palestinian-American men arrested in Michigan, basically for having 1,000 prepaid cell phones: they won't be charged with any terrorism-related offenses. The bad news: they've been hit with federal fraud charges instead. The guys' business plan was pretty straightforward: buy subsidized prepaid phones, then get them unlocked so they could work with any compatible provider, then sell them for a higher price. Prosecutors allege the men's actions represent an attempt to defraud prepaid provider Tracfone, phone manufacturer Nokia and the public by trafficking in counterfeit goods. While unlocking phones, particularly for resale, annoys mobile operators, it's not abundantly clear how doing so represents fraud, nor how unlocking the phones makes them counterfeit, and it's not clear at all why doing so is illegal, though Tracfone and other providers apparently make the bizarre claim that it's copyright infringement. In any case, it seems like any potential legal problems here would be of a civil nature, and not worthy of federal fraud and money-laundering charges. Somehow, you get the feeling somebody doesn't want to admit the arrest and subsequent treatment of these guys was nothing other than a big mistake.

FSI Language Courses

Welcome to, the home for language courses developed by the Foreign Service Institute. These courses were developed by the United States government and are in the public domain.

... visit

Thursday, August 17, 2006

A new dimension to product liability?,1759,2004230,00.asp?kc=EWRSS03119TX1K0000594

Agency Reviewing All Sony Laptop Batteries

By Philipp Gollner, Reuters August 16, 2006

SAN FRANCISCO (Reuters)—Consumer safety officials said on Tuesday they are reviewing all Sony-made lithium-ion batteries in laptop computers for fire hazards after Dell Inc. announced the largest electronics recall in the United States.

... The Sony batteries are also used in laptops from Hewlett-Packard Co., Apple Computer Inc. and Lenovo Group Ltd.

"We are looking at the complete scope of the batteries made by Sony to ensure that no other consumers are in harm's way," U.S. Consumer Product Safety Commission spokesman Scott Wolfson said. "We recognize that the batteries manufactured by Sony are not unique to just the Dell notebook computers."


Is Your Space?

Q&A with: John Deighton Published: August 16, 2006 Author: Sean Silverthorne

Executive Summary:

Social networking sites such as have demographics to die for, but PR problems with parents, police, and policymakers. Are they safe for advertisers? A Q&A with Professor John Deighton. Key concepts include:

* Social networking sites such as are emerging as powerful advertising platforms reaching millions of desirable consumers.

* They will be advertising rivals to established Internet sites such as Google and Yahoo.

* Although MySpace has been the subject of some community criticism, MySpace advertisers don't seem frightened off.

But Mom, all the other kindergärtners have them! (If I catch them driving while talking on the phone, they're getting a spanking!)

Kids with Cell Phones, How Young is Too Young?

Posted by ScuttleMonkey on Wednesday August 16, @04:16PM from the how-often-are-they-on-their-own dept. Communications Hardware

An anonymous reader writes "CNet is reporting that the average age of a child receiving their first cell phone is continuing to drop. A report carried out last year showed that the average age of a child's first cell phone was just eight years old and is expected to drop closer to 5 years of age this year. The author raises the obligatory medical questions that have been argued about in adults for years. Just how young is too young for a cell phone?

Business model: Leave your laptop at home, when you reach your destination rent one of ours! (The problem is, people still want to keep a copy of their data...)

Is Your Laptop At Risk While Traveling?

Posted by samzenpus on Wednesday August 16, @09:38PM from the use-more-bubblewrap dept. Portables Hardware

Editorgirl35 writes "Here's an interesting story on With last week's announcement that the British government thwarted an alleged terrorist attack planned for flights from the U.K. to the U.S., news that travelers are required to check their laptops as baggage on some flights has raised a new level of panic as they try to figure out the best way to protect their laptops."

Oh please, please, PLEASE give me the opportunity to comment on some of these patent applications.

Patent Reviews Via Wiki

Posted by samzenpus on Wednesday August 16, @10:58PM from the patents-of-the-many dept. Patents IT

unboring writes "Fortune reports on a pilot program where the patent approval process would be opened to outsiders for review. Reviewers can vote and discuss on different proposals, through say a wiki. Given the many (recent and past) patent approval fiascos, this seems like a good idea. It'll be interesting to see how they would deal with the issues faced by Wikipedia."

Continuing Microsoft's death by 1000 cuts?

22,000 Indiana Students Using Linux Desktops

Posted by samzenpus on Thursday August 17, @02:34AM from the open-school dept. Education Linux

Anonymous writes "Indiana's Department of Education has moved 22,000 students onto Linux desktops, and it's looking like that's only going to accelerate with SLED 10, Linspire, and other distributions getting better."

All football, all the time. Think how access to any team (including your old high school) can change the media dynamic. MANY business opportunities here folks. Think this will entice jocks to Harvard?

Smaller Colleges Bypassing TV for Web

By PAT EATON-ROBB Associated Press Writer Aug 16, 5:46 PM EDT

... The big TV networks simply aren't interested in the little Ivy League.

But the Ivy League and other small conferences may have found a way around that - the Internet.

Many schools, and now some conferences, have begun showing football and other sports on their Web sites.

"We can produce our own television and reach, literally, the entire world on the Web, without having to go through the issues of, is there cable availability? Is there satellite availability? Is there advertising support?" said Jeff Orleans, commissioner of the Ivy League.

... Big Sky Conference's Northern Arizona offered webcasts of home football games last year. Using the four cameras already set up to provide replays on the stadium scoreboard, the school added audio from its radio broadcasts along with continually updated statistics.

... This season, the entire nine-school Big Sky Conference will webcast all football, basketball and volleyball games, using technology from Salt Lake City-based SportsCast Network LLC.

Fans will be able to choose which team's audio feed to which to listen. Games will be archived and can be downloaded to portable devices like Apple Computer Inc.'s iPod.

"This is the future," Big Sky Commissioner Doug Fullerton said. "The fan will decide what they are going to watch and when they are going to watch it."

... ---On the Net:

When, not if!

August 15, 2006

New National Survey on Enterprise Data Security Risks

Ponemon Institute Releases National Survey on Confidential Data at Risk

  • "Stored data presents unique challenges for enterprise security, and the U.S. Survey: Confidential Data at Risk is a first-of-its-kind study on the topic. Derived from a national sampling of nearly 500 experienced information security practitioners, the survey reveals a number of key findings, including: 81 percent of companies surveyed reported the loss of one or more laptop computers containing sensitive information during the previous 12 months."

Keep this link in your “Background research” folder...

August 16, 2006

Updates to World Fact Book Online

CIA - The World Fact Book - What's New

  • "Country information has been updated as of 8 August 2006.

  • There have been some significant changes to the latest edition of The World Factbook. The successful secession referendum held in Montenegro in May of 2006 allowed it to legally leave its union with Serbia the following month. These two Balkan countries have now been formally recognized and are listed separately in the Factbook.

  • A new Appendix G lists Weights and Measures. The appendix includes information on mathematical notation and metric interrelationships, as well as over 400 examples of standard conversion factors.

  • Revision of some individual country maps, first introduced in the 2001 edition, is continued in this edition. Several regional maps have also been updated to reflect boundary changes and place name spelling changes."

I still can't find the “Ministry of Silly Walks”

August 16, 2006

U.S. Government Manual 2006-2007

"The official handbook of the Federal Government, provides comprehensive information on the agencies of the legislative, judicial, and executive branches."

Federal Regulatory information...

August 16, 2006

OMB Searchable Inventory of Approved Information Collections

"Inventory of Approved Information Collections (updated daily) - This listing includes all collections of information from the public for which a Federal agency has received prior approval from OMB, as required by the Paperwork Reduction Act. An ongoing collection must be approved by OMB at least once every three years."

Sometime soon, elected officials will have to notice that most voters don't trust these machines... Nah!

Another Lawsuit Filed To Stop E-Voting Machines

from the groundswell dept

For years and years people have been pointing out the massive security flaws in e-voting machines. While the companies in the space laugh off the problem or try to block those who try to make sure the devices are secure, it seems like more and more people are beginning to recognize the problems with the machines. They're speaking up and letting politicians know that they're uncomfortable with these machines. The latest is that yet another lawsuit has been filed to stop these machines from being used in elections. This lawsuit is in Pennsylvania but is similar to lawsuits elsewhere. It's certainly true that no voting system is perfectly secure -- but the level of correctable problems found in many e-voting machines, combined with the level of disdain the equipment makers show towards those who point out the flaws makes it worthwhile to try to stop these machines from being used in elections.

What a great idea!,1895,2003853,00.asp

'Pen' Testing in the Palm of Your Hand

By Ryan Naraine August 15, 2006

A portable hacking device equipped with hundreds of exploits and an automated exploitation system will go on sale in the United States in October.

The wireless handheld, called Silica, is the latest product to be developed by Immunity, a Miami-based security company that sells penetration testing products and services.

a virtual strip search” Cool. (Every high school kid in America will be trying to build one of these in his garage...)

New airport screener machine shows you naked

kmk2006 submitted by kmk2006 20 hours 54 minutes ago (via )

Title says it all. Link to video.

How can you tell city officials can't write contracts (or laws) worth a damn? (Whatever happened to “We're the government. We can do anything we want.”)

Dispute slows school/county fiber-optic network

Tuesday, August 15, 2006 By Lynn Moore CHRONICLE STAFF WRITER

Debbie Brewer was puzzled when crews started erecting a power pole in front of her Muskegon home at the corner of Francis Avenue and Creston Street last spring.

Why, she thought, put up another one when there's an existing pole not 10 feet away on the same corner?

She wasn't too pleased when she learned the answer: Verizon Communications wouldn't allow a consortium of schools and government to use any of its poles to string fiber optics for a countywide improvement project.

... Verizon's claim that state law prevents it from allowing use of its poles is the latest snag in the $3 million fiber project that is two years behind schedule.

... The fiber also will allow schools, 911 Central Dispatch and the county to stop leasing "T1 lines" from Verizon that cost $500 to $700 per month. Those are broadband lines that can handle large amounts of voice and data.

Let's hope this doesn't escalate!

Iran gives Hezbollah “unlimited budget” to rebuild Lebanon

posted at 12:54 am on August 16, 2006 by Allahpundit
Send to a Friend | printer-friendly

According to an anti-Syrian Lebanese MP who claims he was told by Hezbollah capos themselves. It figures that the one time the west actually wants to see an Arab government propped up with Sunni cash, the Egyptians, Jordanians and even the Saudis are asleep at the wheel. And Nasrallah’s taking full advantage:

Today's Dilbert sums up IT policy quite neatly

Wednesday, August 16, 2006

This is another Sony related problem – they made the batterys. No doubt there will be a lot of lawyers watching this... Could be instructive. (Note that I had to clip several stories to get even this much information... I suspect there would be a market for a service that gathered enough facts for the Class Action lawyers to make an informed decision. Just a thought.)

Despite Blog, Dell Still Forced To Recall Exploding Batteries

from the boom-boom-boom dept

Dell has announced it is recalling 4.1 million laptop batteries following a spate of well-publicized incidents of its computers catching fire. The battery problem, which had been kicking around for a while, was but one facet of consumers' growing frustration with Dell's customer service -- a frustration the company noted was hurting sales and which it intended to rectify. The most high-profile aspect of this was the launch of a corporate blog, a move partly intended to try to fix some of the damage Dell had taken from pissed-off bloggers. While perhaps the launch of the blog had some symbolic meaning of Dell "joining the conversation", it can't, on its own, solve the company's customer-service woes, or indeed, its deeper problems. While the blog may prove a valuable tool to humanize the company and with which to communicate with customers, as long as faulty products like exploding batteries and many other aspects of the company's service remain a problem, Dell's woes are going to continue. It's doubtful Dell ever assumed blogging would solve all its problems, though the comments of some bloggers would make you think otherwise. But even a blog can't solve the most fundamental problems that are turning people away from the company, something Dell continues to try to fix.

Sony battery problems could go beyond Dell laptops

Faulty Sony batteries could be inside other companies' laptops, other portable electronic devices

By Martyn Williams, IDG News Service August 16, 2006

Faulty batteries produced by Sony like those that caused Dell to initiate a huge recall this week could be present in laptops from other companies and other portable electronics products.

The Dell recall of 4.1 million batteries, which is being called the largest recall ever in the consumer electronics industry, was ordered after the computer maker received reports from customers of laptops overheating and catching fire. An investigation led to the discovery of a problem in the battery cell manufacturing process.

... Sony wouldn't name the other companies citing confidentiality agreements. It acknowledged that some of the cells have been used in batteries inside its own Vaio laptop computers but that the company is not issuing a recall for those. [Yet? Bob]

... Dell customers can find out more about the recall by visiting the company's Web site at or by calling toll-free to 1-866-342-0011, Monday through Friday, 8 a.m. to 5 p.m. U.S. Central Daylight Time. Customers outside the U.S. should contact their local Dell subsidiary or sales agent.

Dell places large laptop battery order

Simplo wins initial order for 400,000 new notebook PC batteries from Dell

By Dan Nystedt, IDG News Service August 16, 2006

Simplo Technology Co. has already won orders for around 400,000 new notebook PC batteries [That's only 10% of the total Bob] from Dell amid that company's massive battery recall prompted by fires in several laptops.

There is a video of a news story on the exploding battery this URL, but you must use MS Internet Explorer to view it.

While you are stalking your ex-girlfriend, stop by for a latte!

Aug 15, 9:07 AM EDT

Google to Distribute Discount Coupons

MOUNTAIN VIEW, Calif. (AP) -- Google Inc. is enabling users to find and print coupons from merchants listed in the online search leader's index of local businesses, adding to a slew of free features designed to attract more traffic to its Web site.

More than 20,000 coupons are expected to be available Tuesday when the service debuts on Google's popular mapping service.

DHS is the very model of security. (Yes Virginia, that's sarcasm.)

When Hippies Turn to Cyber Terror

Last February the Department of Homeland Security oversaw a large-scale international cyber terror simulation involving 115 public and private organizations in the U.S., Canada, Britain, Australia, and New Zealand, all testing their ability to coordinate with one another and respond to computer-driven attacks. It was called Cyber Storm.

Nobody's said much about the results, or the details of the exercise scenario. But a newly-published DHS PowerPoint presentation on the exercise reveals that the real terrorist threat in cyber space isn't from obvious suspects like al Qaida types or Connecticut voters; it's from anti-globalization radicals and peace activists. [You know... Real scum! Bob]

... Marked "For Official Use Only," the PowerPoint deck became public when government transparency purist John Young posted it on his website, Cryptome, this week. I couldn't open it, but I located what appears to be the original on the website of the New York branch of the ISSA, a security organization, from a briefing given them last June 21.

An advance look at the next privacy outrage?

August 15, 2006

DHS Grant to Rutgers Project to Identify Possible Terrorist Activity

"Rutgers, The State University of New Jersey, has received a $3 million grant from the U.S. Department of Homeland Security (DHS) to lead a consortium researching advanced information analysis and computational technologies to protect the nation. The university's Center for Discrete Mathematics and Theoretical Computer Science (DIMACS) will head a consortium that will focus on finding patterns and relationships in data, such as news stories, open-source Web logs, and other accessible information, to quickly identify emerging indicators of possible terrorist activity, and rate the consistency and reliability of the sources. Such information could give officials more lead time to investigate and potentially thwart terrorist plans. DIMACS director Fred Roberts stated, "We will develop real-time streaming algorithms to find patterns and relationships in communications, such as among writers who may be hiding their identities, [Hey look! This guy is trying to communicate secretly with his lawyer! Call in the black helicopters! Bob] and to rate information sources for their reliability and trustworthiness." Rutgers will undertake nine research projects in its first year and will also create educational programs around the technology it develops." [fact sheet on the project]

Perhaps we could create a “Professor Privacy” to accompany Captain Copyright?

Captain Copyright Gets A Rewrite?

from the let's-try-that-again dept

Remember Captain Copyright? The educational program up in Canada that appeared to tell an incredibly one-sided story concerning copyrights to children? Yes, the same one who may have "copied" his entire idea from a different Captain Copyright and who was violating the copyright of others while also claiming you couldn't link to the site if you said anything negative and you couldn't even make use of fair use copying of text from the site. Yes, that one. Turns out the folks who created this bumbling hero are now saying they've heard the critics and are about to do a total rewrite of the Captain Copyright concept, including a much more balanced look at copyright issues -- though, as Michael Geist notes, this only comes after a bunch of schools dumped their links to Captain Copyright's site and the group behind it is getting worried about losing some funding. Geist also points out that the explanation for the bizarre and totally unenforceable linking policy makes no sense. The group claims it was put in place to "protect children from inappropriate content." Ah, right, the ever popular "to protect the children" excuse. Of course, it's hard to see how banning inbound links protects any children at all. It seems more like a weak attempt to protect the folks who created Captain Copyright from criticism (though, perhaps they think of themselves as children). I guess we should remember this isn't Captain Logic we're dealing with here, but Captain Copycat... er... Copyright.

I've been saying for some time that “Virtual Law” could be the next hot legal specialty. Why you ask? Look at the money in the Game market.

Call 911, He Stole My Magic Sword

from the the-sheriff-of-WoW dept

At a gaming conference, Microsoft warned that multi-player online games have significant security vulnerabilities, and that the growing value of in game assets was a juicy target for criminals. As we've seen in the past, MMORPGs are facing more and more real world complications as people invest an increasing amount of money into them. This problem is only going to get worse; as one Microsoft researcher put it, "The police are really good at understanding someone stole my credit card and ran up a lot of money. It's a lot harder to get them to buy into 'someone stole my magic sword.'" But before discussing how law enforcement can address the situation, game developers and players should try to define the border between the game and the real world. For example, most people would accept that if your character is mugged inside a game, then that's part of the gameplay, not a legal issue. But what about counterfeiting gold pieces? What about running a script inside the game that transfers gold from one player to another? Before diverting law enforcement resources to rectify players' complaints, companies running online games need to strive to develop their own security measures that satisfy their players.

Would this also be Virtual Law?

Can You Sue Google Because You Don't Like The Type Of Ads It Puts Up Near Your Listing?

from the seems-like-a-stretch dept

There have been plenty of stories concerning lawsuits against Google from companies that don't like others buying text ads based on the original company's name as a keyword. While the court results on these cases is mixed, it seems like Google should easily win. First, and most importantly, the complaint shouldn't be against Google, but against the companies doing the advertising. Second, it's not a violation of trademarks. Trademarks are only supposed to protect against consumer confusion, not give the owner complete control over the use of the mark. However, it looks like there's a slightly different variation on these types of cases over in the Netherlands. There, a dating site for farmers (talk about niches...) is complaining when people search Google for their site, the ads that show up are for "sex" sites. The dating site is worried that such advertisements damage the image of their own site. It's an interesting legal question -- though, again, it may be a difficult for the company to win. If others believe that the dating site is most closely associated with sex, then it's not exactly Google's fault. Of course, this also raises another question: if others set up a Google bomb so that other such sites showed up in the organic listings, would the company still be able to complain? Google says they won't adjust their organic listings, even in the event of a Google bomb -- so it's difficult to see how you could blame Google for the sites your company is associated with. The dating site's explanation is a bit weak as well, claiming that just because Google can block such advertisements, it means it has an obligation to do so. [Based on that sound legal principal “Because we can, we must” Bob]

Is this for India only?

Get your Windows Vista Beta 2 CD for FREE

akifbayram submitted by akifbayram 16 hours 19 minutes ago (via )

Looks like Microsoft is giving away free Vista Cd's if you can answer a small quiz. I hope it isn't like the free USB flash drives that was posted a while ago...

Osama flys “Air Freight?”

Air Cargo Still Largely Unchecked

By ANDY PASZTOR August 15, 2006; Page B1

Last week's terror threat forced passengers to drop bottles of water and soda, tubes of toothpaste and hand lotion, and cans of hair spray and shaving cream into the trash before boarding jetliners. But unbeknownst to most passengers, airlines loaded aluminum containers filled with largely unchecked freight into the bellies of those same planes.

Despite years of concern from critics who see it as an obvious weak link in the nation's aviation-security net, little has been done to screen cargo because of daunting technical challenges and stiff industry resistance. [Remember, businesses tend to be more logical than emotional. Bob]

... Some in the industry see a potential gold mine if cargo inspections become more prevalent. L-3 Communications Holdings Inc., a major supplier of baggage-screening equipment, has told Congress it believes that with some modifications, current-generation equipment is capable of inspecting more than two-thirds of the cargo at issue.

While other makers of screening-equipment are skeptical of such claims, congressional pressure and heightened public recognition of the threat means "things clearly are progressing in that direction," according to Joe Reiss, marketing director of American Science & Engineering Inc., a Billerica, Mass., manufacturer of security equipment.

Tuesday, August 15, 2006

Good news: They didn't steal the computers. Bad news: They didn't have to...

UK bank details sold in Nigeria

Bank account details belonging to thousands of Britons are being sold in West Africa for less than £20 each, the BBC's Real Story programme has found.

It discovered that fraudsters in Nigeria were able to find internet banking data stored on recycled PCs sent from the UK to Africa.

The information can be found on a PC's hard disk, which is easy to access if the drive is not wiped before sending.

... The Information Commissioner's Office, the UK government's regulatory office dealing with data protection, said companies had a legal requirement to delete people's personal information from their computers when it was no longer needed. (Oops! Bob]

Any tactic that has the potential to move you toward your goal is worth exploring. Sometimes you get lucky and change the interpretation of the law...

Defending the "right" to market share

S.M. Oliva August 11, 2006

This week the U.S. Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals said an antitrust complaint brought against 3M could proceed to trial. NicSand accused 3M of attempting to illegally monopolize the automotive abrasives market by signing exclusive contracts with four of the six largest retail distributors of such abrasives. Judge Ann Aldrich of the U.S. District Court in Cleveland dismissed the complaint for failing to allege an “antitrust injury.” The Sixth Circuit reversed Aldrich and said the case could proceed to trial. One appellate judge, Jeffrey Sutton, dissented and authored a well-written opinion that explains much of what's wrong with contemporary antitrust practice:

As this case comes to the court, it presents a most unusual candidate for antitrust protection. The case, to begin with, involves a claim by one competitor against another and thus implicates the classic rejoinder that the antitrust laws protect competition, not competitors.

When courts nonetheless have permitted one competitor to deploy the antitrust laws against another, that typically has been because one of them—usually, the larger competitor—has engaged in some form of predatory pricing or illegal tying. But here NicSand (the smaller competitor) concedes that 3M has not engaged in any form of predatory pricing and makes no allegations about any form of illegal tying.

... Unable to argue that 3M’s discounting amounted to anything but legitimate (and apparently long-overdue) competition, NicSand focuses on the fact that 3M entered into exclusive contracts with the four large retailers that switched from NicSand to 3M. Yet according to NicSand’s amended complaint, the retailers made exclusivity one of the preconditions for doing business with a new supplier. The complaint says that the large retailers (1) choose to carry just one brand of automotive sandpaper for sale to consumers, (2) re-negotiate these one-brand contracts just once a year, (3) require a new supplier to purchase the retailer’s existing supply of automotive sandpaper, (4) require a new supplier to provide racks and other display equipment, (5) require a new supplier to produce a full line of automotive sandpaper and (6) require a new supplier to provide a discount on the retailer’s first order. NicSand of course complied with these requirements in obtaining the supply business it held in 1997, and 3M complied with them in winning some of that business away. If retailers have made supplier exclusivity a barrier to entry, one cannot bring an antitrust claim against another supplier for complying with that precondition. Put another way, NicSand did not sue 3M insisting that it had a right to share shelf space; it sued 3M because it wanted that shelf space all to itself—just as it had it in 1997. This is precisely the kind of all-for-one-and-all-for-one competitor claim that the antitrust laws do not protect.

3M faced a similar lawsuit a few years ago from a competitor in the transparent tape market. There 3M successfully competed against the incumbent for a particular subset of the market, and the result was an antitrust judgment of more than $60 million. The Third Circuit Court of Appeals actually rewrote the existing standard of Section 2 liability so that a company that priced "above cost"--the purported standard for "predatory" pricing--could still be held liable. Clearly that decision encouraged NicSand to pursue its own complaint against 3M.

On occasion, even I can get one right. So what crimes are they charged with?

FBI Cites No Terror Ties in Arrests

Associated Press 08.14.2006, 02:13 PM

The FBI said Monday it had no information to indicate that the three Texas men arrested with about 1,000 cell phones in their van had any connections to terrorism.

Authorities had increased patrols on Michigan's 5-mile-long Mackinac Bridge after the men were arrested, and local prosecutors charged them with terrorism-related counts.

But the FBI issued a news release Monday saying there is no imminent threat to the bridge and no information indicating that the men have any direct link to terrorism.

These guys clearly crossed the line. What could they have done legally?

Movie service sued over spyware

Washington sues for forcing users to sign up for paid service

By Robert McMillan, IDG News Service August 14, 2006

The U.S. state of Washington has sued the owners of the, alleging that the company used spyware to strong-arm users into signing up for its paid movie download service.

Consumers who dowloaded's free three-day trial software would eventually be hit with frequent pop-up ads informing them that they were legally obliged to purchase the product, [practicing law? Bob] said Paula Selis, an assistant attorney general with the state. The tactics forced some consumers to give in and pay between $19.95 and $100 for the service, she said.

Once again, porn leads the way...

The 7 Ways That People Search the Web

Posted by Zonk on Monday August 14, @02:47PM from the seven-stages-of-search dept. The Internet

SpaceAdmiral writes "After the recent release of AOL search logs, Paul Boutin used the site to analyse the logs. His analysis groups searchers into seven categories: The Pornhound, the Manhunter, the Shopper, the Obsessive, the Omnivore, the Newbie, and the Basketcase. My favorite example search is in the Basketcase category: 'i hurt when i think too much i love roadtrips i hate my weight i fear being alone for the rest of my life.'"

There must be an Osama in here somewhere...

Privacy Commissioner launches investigation of SWIFT

OTTAWA, Aug. 14 /CNW Telbec/ - The Privacy Commissioner of Canada, Jennifer Stoddart, has officially launched an investigation of the Society for Worldwide Interbank Financial Telecommunication (SWIFT), a European-based financial cooperative that supplies messaging services and interface software to a large number of financial institutions in more than 200 countries, including Canada, to determine whether personal information relating to Canadians' financial transactions is being improperly disclosed by SWIFT to foreign authorities. The Commissioner has notified SWIFT of her intention to launch an investigation into the matter.

Good legal strategy (it never hurts to ask?)

RIAA Asks for Blanket Gag Order

Posted Aug 10th 2006 8:19PM by Grant Robertson Filed under: General

Ray Beckerman has his hands full. As many faithful readers of TDMW know, Ray Beckerman is a legal hero of mine, and is lead counsel for several RIAA case defendants.

Beckerman just posted to his blog a response to Sony BMG's demand for a blanket gag order before appearing at any deposition.

"plaintiffs are imposing an unacceptable precondition to their appearance: they are refusing to produce the witnesses unless defendant agrees to an advance blanket stipulation of confidentiality as to the entire contents of the deposition transcripts. Plaintiffs have refused to cite any legal authority for their omnibus protective order request other than the Seattle Times case, a completely distinguishable Supreme Court case which granted a limited protective order as to certain specified classes of documents, based on a traditional showing of "annoyance, embarrassment, [and] oppression" of the individuals whose information would be disclosed."

RIAA member companies have pulled a great list of legal stunts. This trumps them all in my opinion. To put it in plain and simple English, what Sony BMG have asked is that the court trump the 1st amendment rights of the defendant and the defendant's counsel in order to save them from public scrutiny of their own words during deposition.

This isn't normal. I can't wait to see what the judge rules. Sigh.

I'd be much more comfortable if their goal was to have the encryption software USED rather than merely installed...

VA buys encryption tools

Installation of software to be installed on all Veterans Affairs laptops within the month

By Grant Gross, IDG News Service August 14, 2006

The U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs (VA) will spend US$3.7 million on encryption software following a theft in May of hardware containing the personal information of 26.5 million military veterans and spouses.

The VA has awarded a contract for veteran-owned small business SMS Inc. of Syracuse, New York, to install two encryption software packages on all of the department's computers, handhelds and storage devices. The installation is scheduled to start Friday, and VA Secretary R. James Nicholson wants all VA laptops to include encryption software within a month, the VA said.

Slightly different story...,1759,2003334,00.asp?kc=EWRSS03119TX1K0000594

VA to Encrypt All Computers

By Wayne Rash August 14, 2006

... Final testing has already started on those machines, and the actual process of [installing, not using Bob] encryption will begin on August 18. The process is expected to be completed within one month, the statement said.

... Smith said his product would allow VA system administrators to set policies on how information is encrypted. While the product performs whole-disk encryption, there's a choice as to whether to encrypt removable storage such as USB drives or optical disks.

Smith also noted that the whole encryption process take place in the background, so users shouldn't notice that their files are being encrypted and decrypted.

How could they not?

August 14, 2006

Group Requests FTC Investigation of AOL Privacy Breach

Follow up to August 9, 2006 posting, AOL Data Breach Causes Privacy Group to File Complaint With FTC, news today "the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF)...asked the Federal Trade Commission (FTC) to investigate America Online (AOL) and require changes in its privacy practices, after the company recently released search history logs that exposed the private lives of more than a half-million of its customers." A copy of the EFF complaint (11 pages, PDF).

I checked. They are allowing breast milk. Apparently no one was willing to give up the containers...

August 14, 2006

TSA's Evolving List of Items Prohibited From Carry On Luggage

Use this TSA Prohibited Items site to stay abreast of the items now excluded from carry-on baggage, as well as the exceptions to prohibited items (each with their own set of specifications). See also the TSA's Our Travel Assistant site.

August 14, 2006

House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence Report on Al-Qaeda

Al-Qaeda: The Many Faces of an Islamist Extremist Threat, June 2006 (47 pages, PDF)

  • Related report: Initial Assessment on the Implementation of The Intelligence Reform and Terrorism Prevention Act of 2004, July 27, 2006 (41 pages, PDF)

[From the report:

The Islamist extremist threat will continue to grow through the exploitation and use of the Internet.

Wow! But you must consider, they already have a variety of movie download technologies in place. Is it possible could simply skip a controversial (and outdated?) technology?

Even The Porn Industry Can't End HD Format War

from the bring-in-the-UN dept

It's almost a cliché that the porn industry tends to be a driver of new technologies and a kingmaker when it comes to standards. The industry is definitely on the cutting edge when it comes to internet distribution of movies, and many have predicted that the HD-DVD vs. Blu-Ray battle would hinge on which format was adopted by Silicone Valley. But this particular format war has become so convoluted that even the adult film industry is taking an uncharacteristic wait-and-see approach with the new technologies. Studios aren't inclined to make a heavy investment in a new format, when so much remains unclear. Meanwhile, the longer this battle rages on, the shorter the lifespan for the eventual winner; the porn industry is already interested in more advanced modes of distribution.

Subpoena this! (Hiding in plain sight.)

Brightnets vs. Darknets

The Owner-Free Filing system has often been described as the first brightnet; A distributed system where no one breaks the law, so no one need hide in the dark.

OFF is a highly connected peer-to-peer distributed file system. The unique feature of this system is that it stores all of its internal data in a multi-use randomized block format. In other words there is not a one to one mapping between a stored block and its use in a retrieved file. Each stored block is simultaneously used as a part of many different files. Individually, however, each block is nothing but arbitrary digital white noise.

Owner-Free refers both to the fact that nobody owns the system as a whole and nobody can own any of the data blocks stored in the system. The latter claim is explained below and supported in the linked works.

Owner-less Data

It seems highly unlikely to most people that the same exact data can be used to represent several things at once. But indeed, the same digital representation can be, “both a floor wax and a dessert topping.”

The misperception is simply a relic of computer metaphors that obfuscate an important reality of the digital world. Traditional rules do not apply. Mathematics is the only law.

... A simple description of the process is available on this site. A more extensive treatment is done in the paper, “On copyrightable numbers with an application to the Gesetzklageproblem”

Inevitable? Many of my students do not have landlines...

AUGUST 14, 2006 Technology By Olga Kharif

T-Mobile's Trial Balloon

The wireless provider is testing routers that will allow users to make calls from home via cell phone for a flat monthly rate

On Aug. 10, T-Mobile USA started a hush-hush trial of a service that could turn telecom on its head. In the trial, the nation's fourth-largest wireless service provider will equip customers in states such as Oregon with special routers to be placed in their homes. The devices will enable users to make calls from home via a T-Mobile cell phone for a flat monthly rate, according to message board postings seeking volunteers for the trial, has found.

Why is this T-Mobile-At-Home service such a big deal? If this trial is successful and is followed by a full-blown rollout, it could open the floodgates on landline-to-wireless migration.

While today some 7% of Americans use their mobile as their primary phone, that number should climb to 40% within 10 years, figures Craig Mathias, president of wireless consultancy Farpoint Group. After all, if you can make calls from your mobile phone for, say, $5 a month—the amount T-Mobile is rumored to be charging during the at-home trial—why would you pay some $30 for a landline?