Saturday, October 16, 2010

Now you can be a parent and Big Brother at the same time! Unfortunately, there's an App for that.

3 Most Effective Cell Phone Surveillance Apps to Monitor Your Kids [Android]

Use M-Spy to Listen In

Have you ever heard those urban legends that the CIA or NSA can connect to any cellphone in the world and hear what’s going on in the room? Well, with M-Spy from the Android Market, you can do that too. After you download and install M-Spy to your phone, all you have to do is set up a PIN number, and the phone is immediately enabled to act as your own personal audio bug no matter where it is.

Use the Android as an IP Webcam

While audio is useful, it would be even more useful if you could position your Android phone to monitor your home while your kids are being cared for or home alone. Using the IP Webcam app on the Android Market, you can transform your Android into an IP webcam.

Remotely Sense Motion, Movement or Sound

One of the most advanced remote surveillance apps is RL Watcher. This application lets you enable your phone to remotely sense movement, sound or even just the slightest motion of your phone.

Each remote sensor can be individually enabled so that you can receive a notification any time each sensor is tripped. Notifications of any activity can be via SMS, e-mail or by phone. For example, you can set the phone up so that if it moves, it’ll call you at any phone number and you can listen in to whatever is going on where the phone is situated.

Did you ban your teen from using their car? Put your Android phone in the car while you’re at work, and it’ll call you if the car starts moving. Put it in an empty room, and it’ll email you when there’s movement in the room. The possibilities are endless.

A re-hash of the Wall Street journal articles. PeakYou worked no better than some others I've tried.

Data Miners Scraping Away Our Privacy

Posted by Soulskill on Friday October 15, @10:08AM

"Twig, writing for Corrente, reports on data scrapers. They are not looking for passwords and such; scrapers are looking at blogs and forums searching for material relevant to their corporate clients. We are assured that the information is 'anonymized' to protect the identities of forum participants. However, a tool called PeekYou permits users to connect online names with real world identities. No worries, though — if you have a week to spare, you can opt-out of some of the larger data banks."

If you advertise it, they will come.” Field of Madison Avenue Dreams.

Who would send Angie’s List their sensitive medical info??!

By Dissent, October 15, 2010

Danger, Will Robinson!

Angie’s List has reportedly started offering a new service to resolve complaints consumers/patients may have about their doctors. But to do so, it reportedly requires users to sign a release that is Very Bad News.

According to the Medical Justice Blog, which has called attention to this dangerous release, it says, in part:

[My doctor] is hereby authorized to discuss and disclose all protected health information about me in its possession (whether in oral, written, or electronic form) to Angie’s List….

I understand that this includes routine medical treatment information (such as admission records, doctors order sheets, progress and notes, surgical records, laboratory records, and office notes)…

[My doctor is authorized to send] records relating to communicable diseases – which may include hepatitis, sexually-transmitted diseases, H.I.V. and AIDS. …-)…

[My signature also authorizes my doctor] sending records relating to drug or alcohol abuse, or drug or alcohol related diseases (whether or not covered by 42 C.F.R. Part 2), and psychiatric, psychological or counseling records…


I understand that information that I provide to Angie’s List or information that is used or disclosed in accordance with this Authorization may be used by Angie’s List to provide content for Angie’s List publications such as magazines, websites, or other works…

Wow. Angie’s List is not a HIPAA-covered entity. While patients can waive their own privacy and confidentiality and send anyone their records, no HIPAA-covered entity should participate in this at all. And frankly, neither should any patient, in my opinion.

Patients: if you have a complaint that you can’t resolve with your physician or health care provider, there are professional boards to hear your complaint. And if you can’t convince them, see a lawyer about your legal options. Sharing your sensitive information with a business is just plain privacy-dangerous.

Smart, but a few years late?

How Cornell Plans To Purge Campus Computers of Personal Data

Posted by timothy on Friday October 15, @07:27PM

"Cornell lost a laptop last year with SSNs. Now, they've mandated scanning every computer at the University for the following items: social security numbers; credit card numbers; driver's license numbers; bank account numbers; and protected health information, as defined by HIPAA. The main tools are Identityfinder (commercial software for Windows and Mac), spider (Cornell software for Windows from 2008) and Find_SSN (python script from Virginia Tech). The effort raises both technical questions (false positives, anyone?) and practical issues (should I trust closed source software to do this?). Have other Universities succeeded at removing confidential data? Success, here, should probably be gauged in terms of diminished legal liability after the attempted clean up has been completed."

Note: this program affects the computers of university employees and offices, rather than students' personal machines.

[Software mentioned:


Identityfinder [There is a free home version Bob]

Cornell's “spider”

Interesting. They seem to be saying (again) that they are overselling their systems. “We want everyone to buy our unlimited data plans but we don't want them to use them. A few high volume users/applications can overwhelm our network, so we need to block them and charge more.”

Can Apps Really Damage a Cellular Network?

Posted by Soulskill on Friday October 15, @05:59PM

"In FCC filings earlier this year, T-Mobile described how the behavior of one Android IM app nearly brought their cellular data network to a breakdown in one city. Even more interesting, the US carrier describes how just the 300,000 unlocked iPhones on their network caused massive spikes in data usage. T-Mobile is using these anecdotes as evidence that mobile carriers should be able to retain control over the applications and devices on their network to ensure quality of service for all users. Do they have a point?"


Cell phone is 'gadget of choice' for Americans

U.S. consumers crave their gadgets, but the cell phone rules them all, according to a new Pew Internet study.

Among the 3,000 adults surveyed, 85 percent own cell phones. Mobile phones are especially in demand among younger adults, with 96 percent of 18- to 29-year-olds owning one. But even among those 65 and older, 58 percent have a cell phone.

Bad, but what can you expect when research is so carefully hidden (to protect patent rights?)

Meta-Research Debunks Medical Study Findings

Posted by Soulskill on Friday October 15, @03:48PM

"From The Atlantic comes the story of John Ioannidis and his team of meta-researchers, who have studied the overall state of medical research and found it dangerously and widely lacking in trustworthiness. Even after filtering out the journalistic frippery and hyperbole, the story is pretty disturbing. Some points made in the article: even the most respected, widely accepted, peer-reviewed medical studies are all-too-often deeply flawed or outright wrong; when an error is brought to light and the conclusions publicly refuted, the erroneous conclusions often persist and are cited as valid for years, or even decades; scientists and researchers themselves regard peer review as providing 'only a minimal assurance of quality'; and these shortcomings apply to medical research across the board, not just to blatantly self-serving pharmaceutical industry studies. The article concludes by saying, 'Science is a noble endeavor, but it's also a low-yield endeavor … I'm not sure that more than a very small percentage of medical research is ever likely to lead to major improvements in clinical outcomes and quality of life.' I've always been somewhat suspicious of research findings, but before this article I had no idea just how prevalent untrustworthy results were."

(Related) Let's hope that somewhere there is an aspiring garage-based inventor of the cure for the common cold.

The Spread of Do-It-Yourself Biotech

Posted by Soulskill on Friday October 15, @11:30AM

"Are you an electronics hobbyist or a garden shed tinkerer? If so, then move aside, because there's a new kid on the block: the DIY biotechnologist. The decreasing price of biotech instrumentation has made it possible for everyday folks (read: biotech geeks) with a few thousand dollars to spare to equip their garages and parents' basements with the necessary 'tools of the trade.' Some, like PCR machines, are available on eBay; other utensils are hacked together from everyday appliances and some creativity. For example: microscopes out of webcams and armpit E. coli incubators. Nature News has an article on the phenomenon, describing the weird and wonderful fruits of biotech geek ingenuity, like glow-in-the-dark yogurt. One could draw parallels with the early days of computer building/programming. It may be that we're looking at a biotech revolution, not just from the likes of Craig Venter, but from Joe-next-door hacking away at his E. coli strain. What are the Steve Wozniaks of biotech working on right now?"

I like Gertner a lot and this article is worth a read, but I had a chilling thought.. Do you suppose I could translate this curve to reflect how my students see the classes I teach?

Gartner's hype cycle: Tablets, gestures, and cloud

Gartner's "Hype Cycle" ... The underlying concept is pretty simple. New technologies enter the market, become the subject of breathless hype, fail to immediately live up to the most breathless hyperbole, start to therefore be perceived as failures, and finally become useful for the mainstream market in a realistic, measured way.

Gartner's 2010 Hype Cycle for Emerging Technologies Free, registration required.

For your Swiss Army folder...

Fileminx: Free Instant File Converter Online

Ever received an email with an attachment that you couldn’t open because you didn’t have the required program on your system? Asking the sender to resend the file is not always an option since that’d require a lot of time and even then the sender might not have the same software stack as you have. Thankfully, Fileminx is here to save us from all the back and forth emails.

  • Also read related articles:

For my Geeks...

Firefox Addon Builder: A Web Tool To Simplify Building Firefox Addons

Mozilla Firefox Add-on Builder is a free online developer tool. Its aim is quite straightforward: to simplify the process of building firefox addons.

You start by creating an account on the add-ons website here. Next you will need the Add-on Builder Helper Firefox add-on; this add-on will help you try out add-ons and it can be found here. With these things set, you can start coding your add-on in the edit area.

You can start from scratch or, to add functionality, you could use one of the various APIs available in the code library.

Also read related articles: Web Developer Toolbar for Firefox and How to Make Your Own Firefox Addon.

Web enabled Business Models.

How to Heartlessly Arbitrage Used Books With a PDA

Posted by timothy on Saturday October 16, @08:03AM

"Michael Savitz writes at Salon how he makes a living armed with a laser bar-code scanner fitted to a Dell PDA. [Automating the “look up” Bob] Savitz haunts thrift stores and library book sales to scan hundreds of used books a day and instantly identify those that will get a good price on Amazon Marketplace. 'My PDA shows the range of prices that other Amazon sellers are asking for the book in question,' writes Savitz. 'Those listings offer me guidance on what price to set when I post the book myself and how much I'm likely to earn when the sale goes through.' Savitz writes that on average, only one book in 30 will have a resale value that makes it a "BUY" but that he goes through enough books to average about 30 books sold per day. 'If I can tell from a book's Amazon sales rank that I'll be able to sell it in one day, I might accept a projected profit of as little as a dollar. The more difficult a book will be to sell, the more money the sale needs to promise.' [Economics 101 Bob] Savitz writes that people scanning books sometimes get kicked out of thrift stores and retail shops and that libraries are beginning to advertise that no electronic devices are allowed at their sales. 'If it's possible to make a decent living selling books online, then why does it feel so shameful to do this work?' concludes Savitz."

I'm a huge fan of WolframAlpha and my Math students quickly become fans too.

Saturday, October 16, 2010

Wolfram Alpha Word Widgets

Wolfram Alpha is known as a computation and statistics search engine, but Wolfram Alpha offers more than that. Two of examples of this are found in Wolfram's new word widgets. Wolfram now offers a dictionary widget that provides users with definitions, synonyms, and pronunciations.

[Classic Word Calculator

The Fun Word Calculator provides users with anagrams, rhyming words, and the Scrabble value of words.

[Fun Word Calculator

[I also recommend:

Using Wolfram|Alpha in the Classroom

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