Saturday, August 21, 2010

It's completely voluntary. Volunteer to give us your DNA or volunteer to go to jail. The choice is yours.

New YorK State’s new end-run approach to compiling DNA database

August 20, 2010 by Dissent

Michael Virtanen reports:

Local prosecutors in New York are being urged to collect DNA samples as part of plea bargains in all misdemeanor cases after a bill that would have required the record keeping got stuck in the Legislature.

The state has data on genetic material from about 365,000 criminals convicted of felonies or at least one of 35 misdemeanors, as required by law, plus 32,405 samples taken from crime scenes.


Not surprisingly, at least one proponent makes the “If you have nothing to hide…” argument:

“Making this a condition of a plea is not onerous on any defendant. It’s a one-time submission,” said Warren County District Attorney Kate Hogan. “If a defendant does object to it, it does raise a red flag as to what may be lingering in their past.”

The NYCLU has been opposing the suggested expansion of the DNA database and is quoted in the story but has not yet issued any press release on their site or indicated whether they would take any additional measures to oppose this newest proposal.

For my Ethical Hackers

How People Are Hacking Wireless Networks & How To Protect Yourself

(Related) How to bypass those irritating firewalls

How To Create Your Own Online Proxy Server In Minutes

Yeah you bought it. But we really own it, and you're doing things we couldn't figure out how to do (or make money off of) so were gonna make you stop making us look bad.”

Apple Patents Remotely Disabling Jailbroken Phones

Posted by Soulskill on Friday August 20, @10:19AM

"Apple yesterday applied for a patent to allow remotely disabling electronic devices when 'unauthorized usage' is detected. The patent application covers using the camera to take pictures of the unauthorized user and using GPS to determine location, [Just like the school in Lower Merion did! Bob] and it involves ascertaining whether the phone has been hacked or jailbroken, using those as criteria for detecting 'suspicious behavior.' The patent would allow the carrier or any other 'authorized' party to disable or restrict the functionality of the device. Is this Apple's latest tool to thwart jailbreaking?"

An analysis of the socio-economic and geopolitical aspects of porn. For you non-academics, that's the equivalent of saying “I only buy Playboy for the articles.” (No list of sites, I already looked)

Is the Internet for Porn? An Insight Into the Online Adult Industry (PDF)

Source: International Secure Systems Lab

The online adult industry is among the most profitable business branches on the Internet, and its web sites attract large amounts of visitors and traffic. Nevertheless, no study has yet characterized the industry’s economical and security-related structure.

New and very “entry level” - Find Computer Tutorials

The Think Tutorial website is a new resource that gathers together as many computer tutorials and lessons as you could ever need.

The featured pieces deal with everything from sending out emails and uploading images to the Internet, to operations that are notably more complex such as enabling your iTunes or handling your Facebook privacy settings.

Friday, August 20, 2010

If you are going to host your own website, you must at least consider the lessons learned by those who came before. Fortunately, these are summarized in “Best Practices” and if you give them more than lip service they can save you from embarrassment later... Note too, this is a field where it is always cheaper to do it right the first time.

B.C. Lottery relaunches gambling site after costly breach

August 20, 2010 by admin

Emily Jackson reports that the B.C. Lottery Corp. is relaunch its online gambling website, PlayNow. com. A security breach during its debut last month had compromised personal information of 134 players and exposed 12 players’ information to other users.

The breach apparently cost them a lot compared to any delay they might have incurred in further testing the software to uncover any potential problems:

Approval to put the site back online at 7 p.m. was given by the province’s gambling policy and enforcement branch and the B.C. information and privacy commissioner following a review by consulting firm Deloitte, BCLC president and CEO Michael Graydon said.


Shutting down the website cost the B.C. Lottery Corp. $150,000 a day in revenue, Graydon said. The problems required more than five weeks of troubleshooting, for a total revenue loss of more than $5 million.

Graydon would not divulge the cost of the outside investigation.

Read more in the Vancouver Sun.

Never having read Machiavelli's “The Prince,” they are dribbling out the “bad stuff” rather than doing it all at once. Thus they are constantly in the news as “destroyers of privacy!”

Facebook Places could spark new privacy fire

August 20, 2010 by Dissent

Sharon Gaudin reports:

With its new location-based Places feature, Facebook may have just lit the match that will ignite another round of privacy controversy.

On Wednesday, Facebook took the wraps off of Places, a smartphone-based service that enables users to tell their friends where they are, and to track friends. The service, which is slowly being rolled out to users, enables people to share their friends’ locations.

After dealing with angry and frustrated users for months this year, Facebook is jumping into what have already been tumultuous privacy waters with this new location-based service.

Any location-based service will instill some trepidation in users who see it as a stalker’s best friend. Want to know where someone is? Check Places. Want to know when someone is away from home so you can break in and steal their flat-screen TV? Check Places.

Read more on Computerworld.

Rumblings from overseas have already started.

What? Privacy laws aren't perfect?

Broken Promises of Privacy: Responding to the Surprising Failure of Anonymization

August 20, 2010 by Dissent

Paul Ohm’s article, “Broken Promises of Privacy: Responding to the Surprising Failure of Anonymization,” appears in the August issue of the UCLA Law Review. The abstract:

Computer scientists have recently undermined our faith in the privacy-protecting power of anonymization, the name for techniques that protect the privacy of individuals in large databases by deleting information like names and social security numbers. These scientists have demonstrated that they can often “reidentify” or “deanonymize” individuals hidden in anonymized data with astonishing ease. By understanding this research, we realize we have made a mistake, labored beneath a fundamental misunderstanding, which has assured us much less privacy than we have assumed. This mistake pervades nearly every information privacy law, regulation, and debate, yet regulators and legal scholars have paid it scant attention. We must respond to the surprising failure of anonymization, and this Article provides the tools to do so.

You can read the full article here (pdf). Paul always provide a lot of food for thought.

If technology keeps progressing(?) we will soon be able to read and modify your DNA as we drive by your home. On the other hand, maybe they are only irradiating lawyers?

Senators rebuke Obama admin. on full-body scans

Six U.S. senators delivered a sharp rebuke to the Obama administration on Thursday, saying that they were "disturbed" to learn that thousands of images produced by full-body scanners at security checkpoints were surreptitiously recorded.

The bipartisan group of senators demanded a detailed explanation from the U.S. Marshals Service, which installed the millimeter wave system at the security checkpoint of at a Florida courthouse. (See CNET's earlier article about the Marshals Service admitting the recording took place.)

Does a corporation have the same rights as a real person?

German Photog Wants to Shoot Buildings Excluded From Street View

Posted by timothy on Thursday August 19, @10:44PM

crf00 writes with this report excerpted from Blogoscoped:

"'Spiegel reports that German photographer and IT consultant Jens Best wants to personally take snapshots of all those (German) buildings which people asked Google Street View to remove. He then wants to add those photos to Picasa, including GPS coordinates, and in turn re-connect them with Google Maps. Jens believes that for the internet "we must apply the same rules as we do in the real world. Our right to take panoramic snapshots, for instance, or to take photographs in public spaces, both base laws which determine that one may photograph those things that are visible from public streets and places.' Jens says that for his believe in the right of photographing in public places, as last resort he's even willing to go to jail. Spiegel says Jens already found over 200 people who want to help out in this project and look for removed locations in Google Street View, as there's no official list of such places published by Google."

The Forever War (1974 by Joe Haldeman) is being recreated in the courtroom. How will we deal with multi-generational lawsuits? At least, this is how I see things – attorneys who actually know something about technology spending their entire career working on a very narrow legal niche which they must explain to their fellow attorneys, then explain to the judge, then explain to the jury, then do all over again for the next case...

Legal Analysis of Oracle v. Google

Posted by timothy on Friday August 20, @01:54AM

"InfoWorld's Martin Heller provides an in-depth analysis of Oracle's legal argument against Google, a suit that includes seven alleged counts of software process patent infringement and one count of copyright infringement. 'Oracle's desired relief is drastic: not just permanent injunctions, but destruction of all copies that violate copyright (thus, wiping all Android devices), plus triple damages and legal costs. Also, it demands a jury trial,' Heller writes, and while this amounts mainly to saber-rattling, the Supreme Court's recent Bilski ruling did not completely invalidate software process patents despite their shaky ground due to prior art."


When Attorneys General Attack

Earlier this year Topix CEO Chris Tolles got the call no one wants to get – that they were under investigation by a government entity. Two attorneys general, one of which was deep into his senate run, were leveling accusations of abuse at Topix. The company eventually settled with thirty three AGs, plus two U.S. territories. We asked Chris to tell us about his experience dealing with these people. Too often, we’ve found, the office of attorney general is used for little more than a way to advance one’s political career. [I'm shocked! Shocked I tell you! Bob]

For an estimate of scale... And a comparison with US caps that start at 5GB per month.

ISP's top data hog gobbles 2.7TB of data in a month

ISPs sometimes complain about "data hogs," often in the service of ridiculously tight-fisted data caps on Internet service. But there are users who deserve the porcine label, and Belgian ISP Telenet recently offered a rare picture of them. Can you imagine downloading 2,680GB of data in a single month?

One Belgian can. Between July 4 and August 6 of this year, Telenet's single largest user slurped up 2.7TB of data. He was followed by similarly impressive downloaders who transferred 1.9TB, 1.5TB, and 1.3 TB.

These numbers drop off quickly, though. Only a single user on the entire network topped 2TB in a month, while another seven topped 1TB.

Telenet recently published a list of its top 25 downloaders to a discussion forum—but the goal wasn't to demonize the users. Instead, it was to show other people just how much data could be transferred in a single month. The ISP hopes to encourage people to migrate up from its least-expensive plans (with 50GB and 80GB data caps, respectively) to its more expensive "fair use" plans.

For the Security Folder...

BitDefender Rescue CD Removes Viruses When All Else Fails

I recently shared the 10 best free antivirus programs, and these tools are all worth checking out.

… Sometimes, however, none of these programs will work, because Windows simply won’t start or the virus is blocking the installation of other anti-virus programs (even in safe mode!)

In situations like these you need an antivirus that runs on an operating system other than your default.

You could attempt to get your antivirus program of choice running from a self-built Windows live CD, but if you’re looking for something a little simpler I highly recommend the BitDefender Rescue CD.

… This little-advertised free product can scan your unbootable or corrupt Windows setup safely from a Linux Live CD.

Don’t panic! You don’t need to know anything about Linux to use this disk. All you need to know how to do is burn an ISO and boot from it.

To start go ahead and download the ISO file from BitDefender’s semi-secret system rescue CD site.

… A number of other useful tools are included on the BitDefender Rescue CD, including:

When you have a scanned image of a page, who ya gonna call?

Online OCR

Free Online OCR service allows you to

Recognize text and characters from PDF scanned documents (including multipage files), photographs and digital camera captured images. Service allows users to select 32 languages to recognize multilingual documents.

Convert to your favorite formats Converted documents look exactly like the original - tables, columns, bullets and graphics.

Store OCRed files online in your secure workspace. Also you can download these files on your PC, edit text and print.

I keep getting more and more virtual textbooks with no good way to organize and read them. Here's another option for me to try.

Bookworm: Personal eBook Library To Store & Reads Books Online

… Bookworm is compatible with dedicated e-book devices like the Sony Reader and the iRex iLiad, and also iOS4 devices with the Stanza app. Bookworm only supports uploads in ePub format, but you can easily convert your other books to epub using software like Calibre.

Similar Tools: IbisReader, and Zinepal.

Thursday, August 19, 2010

The tools of ubiquitous surveillance.

Mx: End Of Privacy: City To Track People With Eye Scanners

August 19, 2010 by Dissent

Jesus Diaz reports:

Imagine a public eye-scanner that can identify 50 people per minute, in motion. Now imagine the government installed these scanner systems all across an entire city. Or don’t imagine it, because it’s already happening, right now.

Leon, Mexico, is doing exactly that, installing real-time iris scanners from biometrics research and development firm Global Rainmakers Inc. These retinal scanners don’t require people to stop and put their eyes in front of a camera.


The retinal scanning of Leon’s one million population has started already with its convicted criminals. Citizens with no criminal records have been offered the opportunity to “voluntarily” scan their retinas. This, however, is just the beginning.

Read more on Gizmodo (AU).

Think of it as automating the evidence collection process...

Facebook friend request gets man in jail

There is now ample reason to believe that the mere existence of Facebook may cause human beings to do things that they know they shouldn't. Such as poke people and send them dead fish, or whatever virtual beings it is that people send to each other.

Somehow, the temptation seems too great, the user interface too attractive, and the immediacy of the communication just too powerful for anyone to resist.

As evidence, might I bring you the alleged behavior of Harry William Bruder from Florida? According to a report from the Pasco Sheriff's Office, Bruder, an employee of Bud's Plumbing, had been separated from his wife, Carol, for two years and was subject to a domestic-violence injunction.

It is possible that Bruder's internal plumbing might have needed some attention. For he was arrested and stands accused of contacting his estranged wife twice on Facebook. Worse, he is reported by the Smoking Gun to have said, on his arrest: "Yeah, I did it."

It used to be, employees only took the stapler...

Employees Would Steal Data When Leaving a Job

Posted by CmdrTaco on Wednesday August 18, @10:30AM

"Employees openly admit they would take company data, including customer data and product plans, when leaving a job. In response to a recent survey, 49% of US workers and 52% of British workers admitted they would take some form of company property with them when leaving a position: 29% (US) and 23% (UK) would take customer data, including contact information; 23% (US) and 22% (UK) would take electronic files; 15% (US) and 17% (UK) would take product information, including designs and plans; and 13% (US) and 22% (UK) would take small office supplies."

Imagine political ads tied to Behavioral Advertising. Everything you do, every site you visit would result in ads from all the candidates explaining (in 95 words or less) why the other guy is your arch enemy and only they can ensure your right to surf the net.

Google Fights for Underdog Candidates (And More Profits)

The majority of Google's revenue comes from AdWords, its flagship pay-per-click advertising product that brought in $23 billion last year. Now, the Internet behemoth is looking to increase those earnings by wading into the tricky world of election law.

On August 5, Google filed a brief with the Federal Elections Commissions (FEC) for an exemption from campaign finance disclosure rules. Under current law, sponsors of campaign ads must disclose their names, affiliations, and contact information in certain instances.

… "But there are a few exceptions to the rule," writes Politico, "such as advertisements delivered via text message or bumper sticker, for example--where the FEC recognizes a 'small items' exemption--ads for which a disclaimer just isn't practical." Google is hoping that its AdWords platform falls under this same "small item" exemption.

Google claims such regulation could jeopardize AdWords as a tool for lesser-known candidates. It wants "confirmation" that its ads--which contain a maximum of just 95 characters--do not require such disclaimers.

… The pair point out that more than half of online voters use "portal news services" such as Google to learn about candidates.

… It may seem a little dry, but don't underestimate the potential consequences of this exemption. Google is trying to grind out an important precedent: "[Due to] severe space limitation, a text ad is fundamentally different from a television or newspaper advertisement," its lawyers claim.

So are text ads fundamentally different? Don't newspapers face similar space constraints? Aren't the AdWords constraints more arbitrary? What's stopping Google from increasing the word count cap on its AdWords product? The brief cites Yahoo and Bing as having similar maximums, but can't those search engines just as easily increase their caps? This is the Internet--real estate is infinite.

(Related) Speaking of Behavioral Advertising...

How To Find Out What Marketing Websites Know About You

The Wall Street Journal has recently done a feature on website marketing and tracking and more specifically the information that certain websites share about your profile and habits. While cookies/beacons/trackers are nothing new, their article does shed some light on the extent of the issue and the privacy issues at hand. They also have an awesome infographic on some of the major privacy offenders.


BlueKai is a large data warehousing company which sells your marketing data to advertisers.

The site takes information on websites you visit and extrapolates what you might be interested in buying.

Do you want a credit card? BlueKai already knows how much you make and one of their client sites can show you cards which are tailored to your lifestyle.

Through their website you can opt-out of their specific tracker and also specify that a charity will get money “based on advertising dollars gained from your feedback.”

The Big G

The Google Dashboard allows you to see, in one place, what Google services you use and what Google knows about you.

Start Panicking!

Did you know that 3rd party websites can tell what other websites you have been visiting? View Start Panic for a sample of how this privacy leak works.


The EFF has this great tool to let you know how ‘unique’ your browser is. Through a combination of browser and plugin versions, screen size, and what fonts you have installed, you are actually very identifiable without even entering any personally identifiable information.

Marketers don’t necessarily care what your name or exact location is, they just want to know that certain data is valid for a unique person.

Defend Yourself

So what can you do to defend yourself? There are actually a number of options at hand.

Going down the road, and assuming marketers are truthful in saying that they won’t track you, you can ‘opt-out’ of tracking. Google has a tool to opt out of tracking as well as the major marketing brands.

Some other things you can do is to empty your cache and cookie stores on your computer, or have a plugin do it for you. NoScript is a great Firefox plugin that will block cookies from 3rd party sites. [I use this myself. Works great! Bob]

Being a member of a global community on the web innately opens you up to some sort of tracking. However, I think it is good to at least be diligent in minimizing any type of ‘privacy’ invasion by marketers, because it is true when they say that advertising works better on you than you think. After all, they already know where you live.

A cautionary tale for my statistics students. (and why you should always quote from the original source)

Damn lies and cat statistics

Take this statistic, once published by the Humane Society of the United States and the American Society for the Prevention of Cruelty to Animals and still zealously spread by many local animal welfare organizations and cat spay/neuter advocacy groups: The offspring of a single unspayed cat will, within five years, add up to 420,000 cats.

Four years ago, pet columnist Gina Spadafori ran those figures past Carl Bialik, the Wall Street Journal's "Numbers Guy." He has a degree in mathematics and physics from Yale University, and his column routinely examines the basis of statistics used in the media.

"The numbers didn't add up to me," Spadafori said. "And it turns out they didn't add up, period."

Bialik did the math in a couple of different ways, and consulted a number of experts in veterinary medicine and wildlife management. The real number? Somewhere between a low of 98 and a high of 5,000 cats in seven years.

… But the real problem, he said, is that a false statistic is very simple to express, and the explanation as to why it's wrong can be very complicated. "It's very easy for someone to make an argument that's bumpersticker-sized," he told me.

… Worst of all, said Wolf, "Complex arguments don't combat sound bites well. You end up sounding like conspiracy theorist on late night radio."

You have to have 1) sources and 2) some way to handle all those books!

3 Good Online Sources For Free Ebooks & A Free Ereader App

I’m going to cut through some of the confusion, and show you how to get, keep, and consume free ebooks. It’s a fairly quick skate across the surface though, so you’ll need to do some more work yourself.

… The largest source of out of copyright ebooks is Project Gutenberg.

… For a slightly different view of what’s available, you also might like to take a look at manybooks.

… If you’re looking for some niche products, then you need to use the web to search things out. For instance, the nice people at Baen Books have a free ebook library for science fiction. [My favorite genre. Bob]

There are plenty of other options out there for broad or narrow fields of study. Google is your friend. Be cautious of the sites that require you to sign up, and watch what you download.

Managing Free Ebooks


Wednesday, August 18, 2010

Disappointing but not unexpected. The Feds have defined crimes with computers differently than non-computer crimes. Some day they will realize their error.

U.S. ends webcam probe; no charges

August 17, 2010 by Dissent

John P. Martin reports:

Federal prosecutors on Tuesday closed their investigation into Lower Merion School District’s secret use of software to track student laptops, saying they found no evidence that anyone intentionally committed a crime.

The decision, announced by U.S. Attorney Zane Memeger, ended a six-month probe by the FBI into allegations that district employees might have spied on students through webcams on their school-issued laptops.

In a brief statement released by his office, Memeger didn’t disclose details of the investigation, but said agents and prosecutors concluded that charges were unwarranted.


I’d really like to know their reasoning in deciding not to file any charges. On some level, though, a prosecution is somewhat superfluous at this point as most schools have probably gotten the message that you can’t do what Lower Merion did. Prosecuting individual administrators or employees as criminals seems somewhat of overkill.


Wiretap Act Violations Require Criminal Intent

August 17, 2010 by Dissent

Tim Hull reports:

A son who used his iPhone to record a kitchen-table conversation about his dying mother’s will did not violate the federal Wiretap Act, the 2nd Circuit ruled, because he had no criminal intent.

The federal appeals court in Manhattan joined its sister circuits in finding that the Act’s “exception to the one-party consent provision requires that a communication be intercepted for the purpose of a tortious or criminal act that is independent of the intentional act of recording.”

Just days before she died of lung cancer in 2008, Elizabeth Caro and her husband, Marshall, got into a “heated” conversation with family members about her will.

Without telling anyone, Elizabeth’s son, David Weintraub, used his iPhone to capture the conversation and, after Elizabeth died without a will, used the recording to challenge Marshall Caro’s claim on her estate.

Read more on Courthouse News.

Related: Caro v. Weintraub (opinion, pdf)


Lower Merion adopts new policies on laptop tracking

August 17, 2010 by Dissent

John P. Martin reports:

The Lower Merion School District on Monday adopted a new set of policies to govern the use and tracking of student laptops and other technology, its latest step to get past the furor of webcam monitoring.

The measures, passed unanimously by the school board at its monthly meeting, spell out in detail when, how, and for what reasons school officials can access or monitor the laptops they will give to each of the district’s nearly 2,300 high school students next month.

Read more on If you’re wondering what the case has cost the district so far, Martin also reports:

The district has already spent nearly $1 million in legal fees and expenses on the case.

Meanwhile, the Robbinses’ attorney has asked the judge to order Lower Merion to pay him $418,000 to cover his bills through July. That request is pending.

Not all breaches disclose the same information. Think of this one from the “personal protection” (e.g. Secret Service) perspective.

FIFA Ticketing Partner in Security Breach

August 18, 2010 by admin

From the not-very-sportsman-like dept.

FIFA [Fédération Internationale de Football Association] is liaising with its official ticketing partner Match after a massive security breach compromised the details of 80,000 of its customers, including Sweden’s former Prime Minister and the head of Norway’s national bank.

An investigation by the Norwegian newspaper Dagbladet reveals that confidential lists with personal data – including full name, date of birth and passport number – of at least 80,000 Match customers has been sold onto the black market.

The information also included detailed information about which games the customers had tickets to, and where they were seated.

The newspaper published emails from a Match employee offering the information to well-known figures in the international ticketing black market.


The unfaithful employee offered the lists in April 2009, quoting €2.50 per contact. More than 80,000 names and details were allegedly leaked, three quarters of which included full datasets.

Read more on World Football Insider.

Still looking for a common definition....

Data breach demonstrates need for access control policies

August 18, 2010 by admin

Remember the breach reported a few weeks ago when a Freedom of Information request uncovered that a Canada Revenue Agency employee had been mining the database to identity high-wealth individuals that she might recruit as customers for her side business? The individuals whose data were accessed were never notified of the incident because the government decided that there was no risk of injury. Dave Kearns uses that breach story in the Vancouver Sun to make a few points:

1) Why weren’t controls in place to prevent, or at least raise a flag, when an agent accessed files randomly? Were they at least audited?

2) Why did it take four years for someone to realize that there were shady dealings going on?

3) How did CRA determine the “risk of injury”?

4) Why aren’t the affected parties notified whenever there’s a breach?


Read more on Network World.

E-conomics: How much should I spend to secure my computers?

Making Sense of Security Breach Cost Numbers

August 18, 2010 by admin

Larry Walsh writes:

What is the most expensive security breach ever? Before you answer, read the rest of this blog (trust me, you’re probably wrong).

According to a recent report by the Ponemon Institute, the mean corporate loss to IT security breaches last year was $3.8 million. During the four-week study period, participating companies reported being the subjected to at least 50 known attacks. And these companies reported taking as long as 14 days at a cost of nearly $18,000 per day to remediate a security breach.

The Digital Forensics Association also released an analysis of more than 2,800 publicly disclosed data breaches over the last five years that caused $139 billion – that’s a 12-digit number – in damages. This isn’t precise math, but if you do some rough numbers on the back of a napkin you’ll calculate a cost of about $9 million per breach.

Now if these numbers are making your eyes spin, let me put them into perspective.

Read more on CompTIA.

Nice of them, but does this mean they are looking into their customer's computers?

Virgin Media to inform customers of malware infections

August 17, 2010 by admin

Virgin Media has revealed that it will be sending customers whose computers are infected with malware warning letters.

The company announced that it would be taking the step following research which found that nearly a quarter of its customers are affected by some form of malware including viruses, Trojans and spyware.

Initially, Virgin Media is planning on distributing a few hundred letters every week and will expand the service based upon feedback from customers.

Read more on BCS.

[From the article:

It's time for ISPs to go beyond the basics and do whatever they can to help protect their customers.

"We're going to do whatever we can to help defend our customers from serious consequences such as identity theft, and even banking fraud."

(Related) On the other hand...

ISPs Lie About Broadband "Up To" Speeds

Posted by samzenpus on Tuesday August 17, @09:47PM

"Ars Technica has an article detailing the difference between ISP advertised 'up to x Mbps' speeds and the actual speeds, in addition to some possible solutions. They find that on average, the advertised speeds were 'up to 6.7 Mbps' while the real median was 3 Mbps and the mean was 4 Mbps. This implies that ISPs were falsely advertising by at least 50%."

[From the article:

When you look at actual speeds, most Americans have fairly slow service

How do I urk thee? Let me count the ways. “Hey, welcome to the store. What can I sell you? Would you like one of these! You'd look good in that! Those are 25% off today! There's a dressing room over there, why not try that one on?”

Aisle by Aisle, an App That Pushes Bargains

Major retailers are working with a new smartphone application that tracks and offers promotions to shoppers as they move from outside the store, to counters, to cash registers — even inside the dressing room (now that’s persistence).

The app, called Shopkick, will be available on Tuesday for the iPhone and in the fall for Android phones. And with five major companies supporting it — Macy’s, Best Buy, Sports Authority and American Eagle Outfitters, along with the Simon Property Group, the prominent mall operator — it is getting a big introduction.

I find this fascinating. In Churchill's day we were only concerned with “two nations, divided by a common language” Now as English is adopted as the universal tongue, everyone can invent their own sub-language (e-dialect?)

How the internet is changing language

'To Google' has become a universally understood verb and many countries are developing their own internet slang. But is the web changing language and is everyone up to speed?

[Can you define:

"rickrolling" "lurker" "troll" "caps" "LOLcat" “TMI” “WTF” “OMG”

Humor. I'll add this one to my Computer Security folder

A boss in information security forgot to lock his computer..

....and this is what his staff had waiting for him.

For my Ethical Hackers

The 7 Useful (And Unknown) Web Browsers That Are Worth A Try

[One example:


Browzar is based on the Internet Explorer engine, which means it’s such a small file that it only takes seconds to download. We’ve made it disposable; so you have the choice of keeping Browzar on your PC, or downloading it each time you need to protect your privacy. You don’t even need to install it. You can just click ‘run’ and go.

For my website students

HTML5 Reset Speeds Up Site Development With Handy Boilerplate Code

We recently stumbled across HTML5 Reset, a set of templates and code that makes a great starting point for a sites that will be using HTML5 and CSS 3.

HTML5 Reset draws on many well-known sources like Eric Meyer’s reset stylesheet, the Modernizr script for HTML5 across browsers, Dean Edwards’ IE7.js. (Separately, there’s also the excellent HTML5 Boilerplate, which has similar HTML5 and CSS 3 features, but of course a slightly different way of implementing them.)


Freemake – An Easy Video Converter For Windows


The program will accept virtually any video file you can dream of as an input.

You can select numerous files at once and convert them in a batch.

While a wide variety of inputs are accepted, the outputs are more limited, but still very robust. AVI, MP4, WMV, 3GP, DVD, MP3 and Youtube output is supported. The AVI and WMV options allow you to chose from a variety of quality options including 1080p, 720p, DVD quality, TV quality and mobile quality. The MP4 conversion is optimized for mobile devices including the iPhone, iPad, the Sony PSP, and smartphones. The 3GP format is also targeted towards mobile devices.

[Also see:

5 Easy-to-use Freeware Video Converters

Got data? Got lots and lots and lots of data? Here's an interesting way to sift through it. (Windows Vista or better)

Pivot – Search & Interact With Massive Amounts Of Data

Microsoft Live Labs’ Pivot

Pivot is based on a previous experiment called Seadragon, now dubbed and free for all. Just like, Pivot allows you to move and search through incredible amounts of data. But where the former could only exploit one huge picture at a time, Pivot juggles with thousands upon thousands of different files. It’s a new way to experience data.

… Although Pivot is free, revolutionary and quite stunning, you’ll have to bear in mind that it’s still an experiment. Currently this means that it isn’t exactly easy to create collections of your own. The best GUI currently available seems to be Pivot Collection Maker, by y2k4life (third-party).

Pivot currently features a Collection Gallery. Most relevant are the sport-related collections, Wikipedia (highly recommended), Yoga Journal Featured Poses, AMG Movies/Actors and New/Concept Cars. The other available Collections can be seen here.

Free is good!

Limited Time Offer: Get AnyBizSoft’s PDF Merger & PDF Splitter for FREE

Do you read or work with PDF files often? If so, you’ve probably needed the ability to either combine multiple files into one or split one into many at some point.

AnyBizSoft has two applications that can do just that. Their PDF Merger allows you to combine multiple PDF files into one for better organizing, archiving, and batch printing, while their PDF Splitter enables you to split PDF files–even encrypted ones–by pages, bookmarks, and page ranges.

… For a limited time only, AnyBizSoft is giving licenses to these apps away for free. All you have to do is navigate over to their Facebook page and fill in your information to be sent a free license for both apps. Once you have a license, you can download the apps from their respective pages and enter in your code to begin using them for free.

Aside from the limited time offer, AnyBizSoft is also constantly giving away free licenses for their flagship app, PDF to Word Converter 3.0.0. More details on their Facebook page.

If you’re an academic user, you can also check out their Back to School special offer page for more great deals.

Know your enemy students!

The Beloit College Mindset List for the Class of 2014

1. Few in the class know how to write in cursive.

19. They never twisted the coiled handset wire aimlessly around their wrists while chatting on the phone.

… 28. They’ve never recognized that pointing to their wrists was a request for the time of day.

… 58. Beethoven has always been a dog.

A certain Law Professor we know forwards this video about the benefits of a new medication‏

Tuesday, August 17, 2010

More from Mr. Gump's neighborhood. Is it really their goal to make a profit?

Stupid is as stupid does, Monday UK edition

August 16, 2010 by Dissent

Adrian Hearn reports:

A council has been accused of ”bullying” parents after spending £100,000 on a mobile camera which will dish out parking fines – to school-run mums.

The state-of-the-art ROADflow camera will be mounted on top of a traffic warden’s car and driven past 80 schools when parents are dropping off or picking up their children.

Any parent caught stopping on double-yellow lines or zig-zags at the school gates will be photographed and fined £60.

Bedford Borough Council is forking out £67,000 for the camera, £16,000 on software modification and a further £15,000 for warning signs.

A new team of council traffic enforcement officers will record the registration plates and issue Penalty Charge Notices without the vehicle needing to stop.

The council estimates it needs to issue 1,338 parking fines every year to meet the £42,000 annual running costs and make a predicted £37,500 profit.


They couldn’t just hold a bake sale?

Obvious is not always wise, and off-the-cuff remarks are not strategy. (It also suggest a strategy for Identity Thieves: Change the name on those stolen Credit Cards to slow down detection. “I'm sorry Mr Jones, that card belongs to Mr Smith”)

Google’s Eric Schmidt on privacy: change your name

August 17, 2010 by Dissent

Louisa Hearn reports:

Google’s chief has put forth a novel solution for today’s teenagers whose wild online antics threaten to follow them into their adult life: change your name.

His comments come as the search giant attempts to allay public concern about plans to commercialise its ever-increasing pile of data. Schmidt’s prediction for those wanting to distance themselves from their past came as part of a broad-based internet discussion with the Wall Street Journal.

“I don’t believe society understands what happens when everything is available, knowable and recorded by everyone all the time,” he said, as he predicted that all young people might one day be entitled to change their names in order to disown compromising activities captured on friends’ social media sites.

Read more in The Age.

So one day Google may have a CEO named Eric Absurd?

Forgive me if I think it strange that legislatures believe they can dictate good (or even acceptable) uses for technology. What ever happened to Market Forces? What impact will this have on your insurance? Can I get one hooked to the black box in my car to prove that I never drink and drive?

Convicted NY Drunk Drivers Need Ignition Interlocks

Posted by Soulskill on Monday August 16, @07:33PM

"Starting yesterday in New York state, anyone sentenced for felony or misdemeanor DWI, whether a first-time or repeat offender, will have to install an ignition interlock in any vehicle they own or operate. The interlock contains a breath-checking unit that keeps the car from starting if the offender's blood-alcohol level registers 0.025 or higher, a little less than one-third of the legal limit. 'The addition of ignition interlocks will save lives in New York state,' says State Probation Director Robert Maccarone, who led the team that wrote the regulation. 'It's been proven in other states. New Mexico realized a 37 percent reduction in DWI recidivism.' Whether that will be enough to persuade more people to take a cab or find a designated driver is unknown. 'It's one more thing to make people think, it may help — it may keep a few people from getting behind the wheel,' says Onondaga County Sheriff Kevin Walsh."


Radio, RIAA: mandatory FM radio in cell phones is the future

Music labels and radio broadcasters can't agree on much, including whether radio should be forced to turn over hundreds of millions of dollars a year to pay for the music it plays. But the two sides can agree on this: Congress should mandate that FM radio receivers be built into cell phones, PDAs, and other portable electronics.

(Related) There is a clear business opportunity to provide a “translation tool” that makes the various features of websites easier to use. (Since everything is clearly coded, this might even be simple.) But hardware is another story.

Legislation To Make Web Devices Accessible To Disabled Users

Posted by Soulskill on Tuesday August 17, @05:01AM

"In an effort to make web devices accessible to the disabled, the 21st Century Communications and Video Accessibility Act (H.R. 3101), submitted by Rep. Edward J. Markey (D-MA) passed the House of Representatives by a vote of 348 to 23. The related Senate bill has been introduced by Senator Mark Pryor (D-AR). Quoting Representative Markey's website: 'We've moved from Braille to Broadcast, from Broadband to the Blackberry. We've moved from spelling letters in someone's palm to the Palm Pilot. And we must make all of these devices accessible.' [Must we? Bob] The Washington Post coverage notes, 'Some broadcasters put videos on the Internet with captions, but not all. That can make inaccessible everything from the political videos that are now common on the Web to pop culture clips that turn viral.' As someone who has 20/200 vision with my glasses on, I completely agree that the web has not been kind to individuals with various disabilities. But due to the size of the web, and the large number of different devices that access it, is it even possible to legislate something of this nature? Or should we rely on education and peer pressure on the various manufacturers?"

Perhaps we should gather these into a “How to avoid being vulnerable” guidebook for users who don't think.

75% Use Same Password For Social Media & Email

Posted by CmdrTaco on Monday August 16, @01:19PM

"Over 250,000 user names, email addresses, and passwords used for social networking sites can easily be found online. A study of the data collected showed that 75 percent of social networking username and password samples collected online were identical to those used for email accounts. The password data was gathered from blogs, torrents, online collaboration services and other sources. It was found that 43 percent of the data was leaked from online collaboration tools while 21 percent of data was leaked from blog postings. Meanwhile, torrents and users of other social hubs were responsible for leaking 10 percent and 18 percent of user data respectively...."

(Related) A bit less obvious that the previous article, but still offering several clear indications of high rask.

"Dislike" Button Scam Hits Facebook Users

Posted by CmdrTaco on Monday August 16, @09:48AM

"A message saying 'I just got the Dislike button, so now I can dislike all of your dumb posts lol!!' is spreading rapidly on Facebook, tempting unsuspecting users into believing that they will be able to "dislike" posts as well as "like" them. However, security researchers say that it is just the latest 'survey scam', tricking Facebook users into into giving a rogue Facebook application permission to access their profile, and posting spam messages from their account. The rogue application requires victims to complete an online survey (which makes money for the scammers) before ultimately redirecting to a Firefox browser add-on for a Facebook dislike button developed by FaceMod. "As far as we can tell, FaceMod aren't connected with the scam — their browser add-on is simply being used as bait," says Sophos security blogger Graham Cluley."

Politics requires complex (but not always sophisticated) strategies. Consider that the Google CEO was a big Obama supporter and what I see is a politician saying publicly, “I do not bow to Google.” Privately I suspect the message is, “I know lots of Google-gazillionaires who can toss some pocket change (say $50,000,000) into your campaign funds if you vote their way.” Or is that too obvious?

Democrats Pan Google-Verizon Net Neutrality Proposal

Posted by Soulskill on Monday August 16, @11:37PM

"Four House Democrats wrote to the Federal Communications Commission, urging them to write strict net neutrality rules and reject the framework put forward by Google and Verizon. The lawmakers, including Rep. Anna Eshoo, who represents the district containing Google HQ, said the Google-Verizon proposal increases the pressure on the FCC to come up with actual net neutrality rules, and characterize the deal as harmful to consumers and beneficial for the corporations. In particular, the letter took issue with two pieces of the Verizon-Google proposal: exemptions for managed services and wireless services from strict net-neutrality rules."

Coming soon! They have a sense of humor – don't confuse that with trivial.

Swingly’s Answer Engine Comes Out Of Stealth Swinging And Killing Zombies

Sadly, Google isn’t great at answering questions because they’re a search engine that mainly returns hyperlinks. Sure, your answer may reside on one of those pages, but that requires another click and some browsing. A new service launching out of stealth mode tonight, Swingly, wants to perfect this task.

… Perhaps the most refreshing thing about the Texas-based startup is that they’re not pretending to be perfect. They claim to be about 75 percent accurate right now. But just in case they can’t back that up, they show related Q&A pairing below their best match to make sure you get what you’re looking for. And that’s actually smart because apparently in their alpha testing of the product, people have proven hungry for knowledge and keep coming back for more. “Our engagement numbers are phenomenal,” the company says.

… But really, all that matters here is how useful the service actually is in the real world. So Swingly is giving us 500 invites to dish out to TechCrunch readers. Simply use the code ‘techcrunch’ when you sign up and you’ll be granted access to the service when it’s fully live (which should be soon).

Swingly has also created a side-by-side comparison site so you can see how your questions are answered on their service versus how they are on the competitors. You can find that here (but you need to be logged in for it to work).

Something to share with your police friends?

SafetyWeb’s Free Online Tracking Helps Police Find Missing Kids

Child safety monitoring service SafetyWeb is releasing a free version of its online tracking tool today, specifically for law enforcement agencies.

The SWOT tool allows police to secure the social networking accounts of a missing child and access recent status updates. Basically it tracks recent activity across platforms like Facebook, Twitter, Myspace and any other social networking services a missing child might use to rely information on their whereabouts. The platform also provides instant alerts of its video, social network and photo site tracking.

SWOT got a standing ovation when demoed by SafetyWeb founders (and parents) Geoffry Arone and Michael Clark at the Crimes Against Children Conference last week, which SafetyWeb co-sponsored with Google and Facebook.

Tools & Techniques: Hardware &software for geeks & hackers. Here are a few samples...,2817,2367742,00.asp

Computer Tools: Your At-Home IT Toolkit


Your parents can't figure out how to upload a picture to Facebook; you live 3,000 miles away. Do you try to talk them through the process on the phone? Why bother, when you can take remote control of their desktop from anywhere? Have them install TeamViewer's QuickSupport utility, so you can take over”even from an iPhone or iPad”once they give you the ID and Password generated at launch. It's secure because they have to provide the numbers to give you permission. And it works like a charm.

Magical Jelly Beans KeyFinder

Even if you have original disks to re-install programs, you might lack some all-important product keys (those numbers that are used to legally install many programs). KeyFinder is a freebie that pulls the keys for over 300 programs, including older versions of Windows and Office.

DriveImage XML

DriveImage XML will make a complete backup image of the drive”just make sure you have a larger drive to back up to. And thankfully, you can run it from a bootable CD. It works with Windows XP, Server 2003, Vista, and 7


Got problems with wireless? This free tool gives you a full report on all the wireless in your area. That way you know what channels are in use, what's crowded, what's encrypted, and the strength of competing 802.11 signals over time. And unlike other tools like this, inSIDDer works with Windows all the way up to version 7, even 64-bit, all using your existing wireless hardware.

Monday, August 16, 2010

Same sad story, different day. “It's not a failure spying, it's a feature a service!”

ISP TalkTalk UK Responds to Privacy Concerns Over URL Monitoring Service

August 16, 2010 by Dissent

Broadband ISP TalkTalk UK has kindly responded to a number of the concerns we raised about its forthcoming security service. The controversial system shot into the headlines last month after several of the internet providers customers noticed that their website browsing activity was being monitored (“stalked”) without consent.

The ISP then promptly moved to allay any fears of privacy invasion by stating that the activity, which allegedly makes an anonymous record of the URL (website) addresses visited by all of its customers, was part of a new free security service targeted to launch before the end of 2010; following a proper public trial.

Read more about what they’re doing and ISPreview’s concerns about it on ISPreview.

Ubiquitous surveillance tool? War-driving gets an upgrade? Perhaps Google will adopt these.

Dutch Hackers Create Wi-Fi Sniffing Drone

Posted by timothy on Monday August 16, @04:58AM

"The WASP, or Wireless Aerial Surveillance Platform, has been built out of a hobby-grade airframe and open source Ardupilot autopilot, reports sUASnews. In the words of the Rabbit-Hole website, it's a 'Small Scale, Open Source UAV using off the shelf components. Designed to provide a vehicle to project cyber-offensive and defensive capabilities, and visual / electronic surveillance over distance cheaply and with little risk.'"

Want a drone of your own? The makers have some pointers to helpful resources.

For my students...

How online research can make the grade

Not too long ago, the golden rules for high school and college students turning to the Web as a research tool were simple: treat digital content that's never been in print with suspicion. Be careful what you Google. And thou shalt not touch Wikipedia.

But the Web has grown up a bit in the past few years, and the presence of digital research journals, fact-finding social media tools, textbook exchanges, and e-readers have made it a much more complicated landscape for anyone who encounters the education world's slow march beyond the traditional textbook. When things have shaken out, it may be a world where free-for-all online information hubs are accepted--or, if proponents of "collaborative knowledge" have their way, even embraced.

"We have 16 million articles," said Jay Walsh, a spokesman for the Wikimedia Foundation, which operates Wikipedia. "It's impossible to say that they're all going to be great and you're not going to find any vandalism. So a healthy dose of media literacy helps any student looking at that information."

In a 2005 study, scientific journal Nature found, based on a survey of articles pertaining to various disciplines, that Wikipedia was on a par with Encyclopedia Britannica when it came to the accuracy of information within. It was a win for supporters of the idealistic concept of collaborative knowledge. And some academics say that it's now sufficiently stable and commonplace that they're all right with students using it for basic knowledge--just not citing it.

… "Wikipedia should not be used as a primary source," Walsh said. "We completely support that. We would not encourage people to cite Wikipedia in their papers. That's not what it's for.

Jing Videos in PowerPoint (Windows Only)

Next time you have to give a presentation, wow your audience with an embedded video. This will help you explain certain things without the usual static screen captures and bullet points.

There's a couple of ways to do it. There's the easy way, which requires you have a copy of TechSmith's SnagIt software. SnagIt's Add-in makes it easy to drop a video into a slide. I've made a Jing video showing this process. You can learn more about all the SnagIt add-in's here.

You don't have to have SnagIt in order to put Jing videos in PowerPoint presentations, but PowerPoint doesn't make it obvious like inserting an image. I've found and tried a couple of resources on the Web.


How to Insert SWF Flash Movies in PowerPoint Presentations

Related tutorial: How to Embed YouTube videos in PowerPoint Slides

WOW! I'll need some time to fully appreciate this, but I suspect my students will love it!


The social network for learning.