Saturday, April 07, 2012

At some point, you have to acknowledge 'the enemies of the state' otherwise it appears you are using the Army on your own peaceful citizens.
"After Anonymous hacked hundreds of Chinese government, company, and other general websites, China has acknowledged the attacks. Meanwhile, Anonymous China has not stopped its onslaught. 'The group has hacked and defaced hundreds of Chinese government, company, and other general websites over the last week. A few targets have had their administrator accounts, phone numbers, and e-mail addresses posted publicly. Last but not least, on many of the hacked sites, the group even posted tips for how to circumvent the Great Firewall of China. Surprisingly, the Chinese government has acknowledged the attacks. While Anonymous was not specifically mentioned, it's obvious what China's Ministry of Foreign Affairs was referring to during a briefing on Thursday, given the events during the last week.'"

I feel so cheap...
April 06, 2012
SmartMoney - 10 Things Online Data Collectors Won't Say
  • "If you're reading this on the Internet, chances are you're being followed. More than 200 data collection companies and ad networks use approximately 600 different tracking technologies to gather and sell information on people's web habits, according to Abine, an online privacy firm that tracks the trackers. The online advertising industry is a $31 billion business fueled largely by behind-the-scenes exchanges of consumers' personal online shopping and browsing habits. Web-based commercial data collectors work by quietly dropping bits of code called cookies on user computers, which allow collectors to track what people read, click or buy. That information, collected by companies such as BlueKai and DoubleClick (a Google subsidiary), is sold in real-time exchanges to ad networks, which then target segments of users with ads fitting their interests. Someone who just searched Expedia for information on Puerto Rico, for example, would be almost instantly hit with ads featuring San Juan hotels and resorts. Billions of these exchanges occur daily. Search engines and social networking sites such as Google and Facebook also track user data to generate targeted advertising. The result? The new cell phone or spring sandals users willed themselves not to buy show up in ads alongside their morning news."
[From the article:
Though it's hard to put a dollar amount on the value of one person's data to a data broker or ad firm, estimates range from a fraction of a cent for a single piece of data to $5,000 for a full digital profile.

Love Social Media? Chances Are You’re Also A Fan of Chipotle, Saab and Victoria’s Secret
According to a new report by Experian Hitwise, 91% of online adults now regularly use social media in some form or another. This makes social networking the top online activity in the U.S. today, with 15% of all U.S. Internet visits going to a social networking site. Experian’s report also found that Pinterest is now the third most popular social network in the U.S., right behind Facebook and Twitter. What’s more interesting than those rankings, though, is what the report tells us about social media’s most fervent users.
Experian, for example, found that people who use social media regularly are significantly more likely to fly on Virgin Atlantic than the average online adult. These social media users are also more likely to drive a Saab, own an iPhone, eat at Au Bon Pain, Chevy’s and Chipotle, and shop at Payless Shoe Source and Victoria’s Secret.
Interestingly, those adults who visit professional networking sites like LinkedIn more than the average Internet user actually prefer United Airlines (they are probably more interested in collecting frequent flyer miles and getting upgrades), Whole Foods and The Cheesecake Factory. Just like the average social media user, though, those who regularly frequent professional social networking sites are also more likely to own an iPhone than the average U.S. adult.

Have we reached a milestone that hackers have been waiting for? Apparently.
Flashback the largest Mac malware threat yet, experts say
Unless you've been living under a rock for the past week, you've probably heard about Flashback, a piece of malware targeting users of Apple's Mac OS X that's now estimated to be quietly running on more than 600,000 machines around the world.
That number, which came from Russian antivirus company Dr. Web earlier this week, was confirmed today by security firm Kaspersky. More than 98 percent of the affected computers were running Mac OS X, the firm said.
… "600,000 represents around 12 percent of the Mac OS computers sold in Q4 2011," Cosoi said, "which means that if we count the number of Mac OS devices sold in the past three years, we can estimate that less than 1 percent of the Mac OS computers are possibly infected. On the other hand, if we look at the actual numbers and not at the percentages, the numbers look pretty scary."

A new market for Amazon – Tax Consulting!
New submitter artciousc writes with news that Amazon is dodging taxes in the UK. From the article:
"Regulatory filings by parent company with the U.S. securities and exchange commission show the tax inquiry into the UK operation, which sells nearly one in four books sold in Britain, focuses on a period when ownership of the British business was transferred to a Luxembourg company."
Clever trick there: "The UK operation avoids tax as the ownership of the main business was transferred to a Luxembourg company in 2006. The UK business is now owned by Amazon EU Sarl and the UK operation is classed only as an 'order fulfilment' business." The HMRC is investigating the legality.

An interesting way to divide free and paid. Now you can design your own fusion reactor!
3DTin is a free web-based program for creating three dimensional models. 3DTin provides templates that you can use to develop models or you can build a model completely from scratch. The service is completely free to use as long as you allow your models to be labeled with a Creative Commons license and put in the 3DTin gallery. The gallery is a great place is to find examples of what can be created in 3DTin. Models that you create can be exported for use in other modeling software.
Before you rush to try 3DTin you should know that you do have to be using a modern web browser that supports WebGL. For example, 3DTin will work with the latest versions of Chrome and Firefox but will not work with older versions of Firefox or Internet Explorer. 3DTin can be used as a Chrome Web App too.
The video below offers a short introduction to 3DTin, more tutorials are available on YouTube.

For the Criminal Justice students?
Here’s What A Facebook Response To A User Data Subpoena Looks Like
Last year, Facebook got a little more transparent explaining what kind of data it would provide to law enforcement officials when they made formal subpoenas for user profiles. Now, we can have a look at exactly what that Facebook account report looks like, perhaps for the first time.
The document comes by way of the newspaper the Boston Phoenix, which this week published a long feature on how digital sleuthing led to detectives tracking down Philip Markoff, a man accused of robbing two women and murdering a third, having initially made contact with them through Craigslist. (Markoff committed suicide before his case went to trial.)
The feature is worth reading in itself, but what’s equally interesting is that the Phoenix has taken the opportunity to also make public an extensive amount of evidence that was used in the case, covering things like CCTV footage, audio of police interviews… and all of Markoff’s Facebook data.
The Phoenix didn’t obtain that data directly from Facebook itself, but got it as part of the Boston Police Department’s public release of its investigation case file (the BPD had originally gotten the data by subpoena).

A limited study of 50 convicted burglars in the U.K. reveals what most of us knew already: if you tweet or post a Facebook status about your vacation in Cancun, a criminal in your hometown may target your house for a break-in. He or she may even use Google Street View to case the joint.
But law enforcement is fighting back, solving crimes using the same social media that makes it easy for people to become victims. The Boston Globe reports in today's editions that the Boston Police Department has had "amazing" results with its use of social media and its Text-A-Tip

For my Disaster Recovery class. What word would make you move to shelter? Is this the new “Threat Warning Orange?”
"The National Weather Service has begun testing the way it labels natural disasters. It's hoping that the new warnings, which include words like 'catastrophic,' 'complete devastation likely,' and 'unsurvivable,' will make people more likely to take action to save their lives. But what about their digital lives? Recommendations include: Keep all electronics out of basements and off the floor; Unplug your hardware; Buy a surge protector; Enclose anything valuable in plastic. If the National Weather Service issued a 'complete devastation' warning today, would your data be ready?"

Researchers take note... (pun not intended, but inevitable)
Snapify is a handy little Chrome extension that I've shown to live audiences twice in the last two days. Both times I showed how it works I heard some "oohs and ahs." Snapify allows you to highlight any word or phrase on a webpage and quickly find definitions, videos, Tweets, and webpages about that word or phrase. See it in action in the video below.
Applications for Education
Snapify could be a great little tool for students to use when they're reading articles online. Anytime students come to a word or phrase that they don't understand they can simply highlight it and click "snap it" to find definition or explanation.

For my friends who are writing books and for those who bloody well should!

Friday, April 06, 2012

“Fortunately for the staff, we've determined that this was a miracle...” An interesting case for my Computer Security students.
Staff won’t face discipline after UVic private data stolen
… “We’re not going to be taking any discipline,” president David Turpin said, following the release of a report by the province’s information and privacy commissioner last week.
Elizabeth Denham’s report concluded UVic breached the Freedom of Information and Protection of Privacy Act when it failed to protect employees’ personal information.
“Given the amount and the sensitive nature of personal information contained on the university mobile storage device, coupled with the ease of encrypting the information, there is simply no rationale for failing to encrypt this information,” she said.
Turpin defended his employees simply by saying they were responding to an internal audit that asked that a backup device be made, in the event of an emergency.
“They prepared that, they stored it in a locked box, in a locked safe, it was bolted to a concrete floor in a locked room in a locked building, and they viewed that as a reasonable security arrangement. … Unfortunately it turned out to be inaccurate,” Turpin said.
The university has already taken steps toward improving security on campus, including adding alarms and mandating encryption standards for all electronic devices. [Now they plan to follow Best Practices... Bob]

“We gotta do something!” Is this it?
"Eighteen months after its diplomatic cables were exposed in the WikiLeaks breach, the State Department continues to lock down its confidential information, while increasing its use of using social media. The agency is deploying new security technology, including auditing and monitoring tools that detect anomalous activity [Define “Anomaly” in this context Bob] on the State Department's classified networks and systems. State has also begun tagging information with metadata to enable role-based access to those who need it, and is planning to implement public key infrastructure [Surely they already encrypt their data... Bob] on its classified systems by the summer of 2014. This is all taking place despite the recent announcement that the IT budget will be cut by nearly 5%"
From the article:
Like other federal agencies, the State Department is consolidating data centers. In the United States, it's going from 14 data centers [State has 361 data centers total Bob] to four, while classified processing from overseas offices is being done in a handful of regional sites.
With data center consolidation comes private cloud computing, and in particular, infrastructure-as-a-service.

“When the Internet is outlawed, only outlaws (and the government) will have the Internet” Clearly, all programming languages would be illegal – they are used to create evil software. This would even outlaw email (since that is a tool for social engineering) Have these bozos even asked a hacker what the impact of this law would be?
Watch Out, White Hats! European Union Moves to Criminalize ‘Hacking Tools’
The European Union is continuing a push to criminalize the production or sale of ‘hacking’ tools, a move that civil liberties advocates argue could make criminals out of legitimate security researchers.
… The proposed law, which was passed by the European Commission’s Civil Liberties Committee last week, still has a ways to go before going into effect – but the EFF’s international rights director Katitza Rodriguez says now is the time to raise awareness about the proposal.
… The text of the newest version of the proposal has not yet been made public, but the summary published by the committee indicates that prohibition on ‘hacking tools’ remains.
The proposal also targets tools used to commit offences: the production or sale of devices such as computer programs designed for cyber-attacks, or which find a computer password by which an information system can be accessed, would constitute criminal offences.
While the law seems aimed at blackmarket tools that can be used to create malware infested sites, it’s also likely to criminalize tools used by researchers, developers and black hats alike – including tools like fuzzers, the Metasploit penetration testing tool and the wi-fi sniffing tool Wireshark. (Perhaps even the command line would be outlawed.)
U.S. law remains murky or outright dangerous for security researchers, hacktivists and curious citizens. Provisions in the Digital Millenium Copyright Act make it a crime to get around encryption built into products, with only a few exceptions. And federal prosecutors have tried to prosecute citizens under federal anti-hacking laws for violating the terms of service on a social network.

Interesting, but I doubt it would fly...
April 05, 2012
Paper - Applying the Insurable Interest Doctrine to 21st Century Financial Markets
An FDA for Financial Innovation: Applying the Insurable Interest Doctrine to 21st Century Financial Markets - Eric A. Posner, University of Chicago Law School; E. Glen Weyl, University of Chicago; University of Toulouse, Toulouse School of Economics, revised April 4, 2012
  • "The financial crisis of 2008 was caused in part by speculative investment in complex derivatives. In enacting the Dodd-Frank Act, Congress sought to address the problem of speculative investment, but merely transferred that authority to various agencies, which have not yet found a solution. We propose that when firms invent new financial products, they be forbidden to sell them until they receive approval from a government agency designed along the lines of the FDA, which screens pharmaceutical innovations. The agency would approve financial products if they satisfy a test for social utility that focuses on whether the product will likely be used more often for hedging than for speculation. [Aren't they opposite sides of the same coin? I think oil is going to $200 per barrel and you think I'm an idiot... Bob] Other factors may be addressed if the answer is ambiguous. This approach would revive and make quantitatively precise the common-law insurable interest doctrine, which helped control financial speculation before deregulation in the 1990s."

Let's see, what word is defined as: “doing the same thing over and over again and expecting different results?” Oh yeah. Insanity
"Christopher Dodd, the former Connecticut senator who now leads the MPAA, hasn't given up on his dream of censoring the Internet. [That's “Delusion” Bob] In an interview with Hollywood Reporter, he said that Hollywood and the technology industry 'need to come to an understanding' about new copyright legislation. Dodd said that there were 'conversations going on now,' about SOPA-style legislation, but that he was 'not going to go into more detail because obviously if I do, it becomes counterproductive.' [Translation: Everyone points out how stupid it is Bob] Asked whether the White House's decision to oppose SOPA had created tensions with Hollywood, Dodd insisted that he was 'not going to revisit the events of last winter,' but said he hoped the president would use his 'good relationships' with both Hollywood and the technology industry to broker a deal."

I resemble that remark! Back in the mid-1980s I ran a BBS for the local chapter of what is now ISACA. Pre-Wolrd Wide Web, but definitely not pre-Internet.
"The Slashdot readership is probably split pretty evenly into two groups. There are those for whom full-on Internet access has been available for their entire computer-using lives, and then there are those who wanted to use the Net from home before 1991, and who therefore had to use a BBS or an online service. Here's a tour of some of these services, including Prodigy, Compuserve, and of course AOL. This should be a nostalgic trip for the oldsters [Oh my god, I'm an Oldster! Bob] among us, and a history lesson for Gen Y readers."

We've known this for years! It also applies to other sports. Just because we call a player an idiot, we don't mean they are ignorant.
Elite Soccer Players Are Smarter Than You Are
Top-tier players think more clearly, quickly and flexibly than non-players, and there is a correlation between cognitive ability and the number of goals and assists a soccer player scores, Swedish researchers found. The study, published in the journal PLoS One, says measuring cognitive skill could predict a player’s potential.
“Our data suggest that measures of executive functions with validated neuropsychological tests may establish if a player has the capacity to reach top levels in soccer,” the researchers wrote. “Thus, the present study may change the way ball-sports are viewed and analyzed and how new talents are recruited.”
It is generally accepted that performing at the highest level requires as much intelligence as strength and skill. The best footballers have an innate ability to read a play and be in the right place at the right time. Think of it as a sixth sense. Some call it “game intelligence.”

Amazon S3: 905 Billion Objects Stored, 1 Billion Added Each Day
Amazon has released some fairly impressive numbers showcasing the growth of Amazon Simple Storage Service (S3) over the years. By the end of the first quarter of 2012, there were 905 billion objects stored, and the service routinely handles 650,000 requests per second for those objects, with peaks that go even higher. To put that in perspective, that’s up from 262 billion objects stored just two years ago and up from 762 billion by Q4 2011.
Or maybe it’s more impressive when you look further back: 2.9 billion in 2006, for example. And how fast is it growing? Well, says Amazon, every day, over a a billion objects are added. That’s how fast.

For my “Let's loin us some kultcha” class
April 05, 2012
The Google Art Project Expands Virtual Collection
FAQ: "The Art Project is a collaboration between Google and 151 acclaimed art partners from across 40 countries. Using a combination of various Google technologies and expert information provided by our museum partners, we have created a unique online art experience. Users can explore a wide range of artworks at brushstroke level detail, take a virtual tour of a museum and even build their own collections to share. With a team of Googlers working across many product areas we are able to harness the best of Google to power the Art Project experience. Few people will ever be lucky enough to be able to visit every museum or see every work of art they’re interested in but now many more can enjoy over 30,000 works of art from sculpture to architecture and drawings and explore over 150 collections from 40 countries, all in one place. We’re also lucky at Google to have the technology to make this kind of project a reality."

For my Math students...
New IBM App Presents Nearly 1,000 Years of Math History
Minds of Modern Mathematics, a new iPad app released Thursday by IBM, presents an interactive timeline of the history of mathematics and its impact on society from 1000 to 1960.
The app is based on an original, 50-foot-long “Men of Modern Mathematics” installation created in 1964 by Charles and Ray Eames. Minds of Modern Mathematics users can view a digitized version of the original infographic as well as browse through an interactive timeline with more than 500 biographies, math milestones, and images of relevant artifacts.
… Starting from the first French pope to celebrated mathematician John von Neumann, users can see every major math-related event or person in a visually impressive layout. You can tap on an entry to read more about it, and view how math events and math superstars relate in time to other historical events, such as the First Crusade that seizes Jerusalem and the signing of The Declaration of Independence.
And in case you (like me) haven’t taken math since high school, the app also includes an “IBM Mathematics Peep Show” of nine 2-minute animated clips that will help you brush up on mathematical concepts like topology and exponents.
The Minds of Modern Mathematics app is available for free on the App Store.

Easier than the way we did it in New Jersey... And you don't need a switchblade!
Jack Choi: On the virtual dissection table

Thursday, April 05, 2012

If true, someone needs to understand the discovery process. I would certainly try to get my hands on the source code for their applications to determine exactly what they were doing.
Class Action Suit Filed Against Path Claims More Data Was Collected Besides Address Books
April 4, 2012 by Dissent
George Jenkins writes:
A second class-action lawsuit was filed against Path Inc. claiming the company’s mobile app collected more information than just users’ address books. The suit also claimed that users of the Path app were:
“… victims of unfair, deceptive, and unlawful business practices; wherein their property, privacy, and security rights were violated…”
The additional data allegedly collected without notice and without consent included find GPS locations, users’ personally identifiable information, and the personal information of minor children.
Read more on I’ve Been Mugged.
[From the article:
You can download the Hernandez et al v Path Inc. complaint from Courthouse News

Isn't this exactly what Facebook was designed to do? Introduce you to your classmates? Baylor must be a very social place!
Baylor Law Screw-Up Reveals Personal Data of Entire Admitted Class: Data That We’ve Got
April 4, 2012 by admin
Elie Mystal writes:
There are data breaches, and then there are data dummies. The people at Baylor Law seem to be in the latter category.
Nobody was trying to steal the personal information of the admitted students at Baylor Law. But a screw-up by someone at the school resulted in all of the personal information of the admitted class getting transmitted to everybody else in the admitted class.
All of it. Names, addresses, grades, and LSAT scores. Pretty much everything besides social security numbers.
Read more on Above the Law, where their redacted table showing some of the admissions information suggests that 442 applicants had some personal information exposed.

(Related?) Facebook: the lazy policeman's friend! (Actually good procedure, bad follow-up) Could you explain why a bar is your “friend?”
"A 28-year-old woman was recently accused of assault and arrested based on a thumbnail photo from her profile pic on Facebook. Artist Lizz Aston was identified in a lineup after police used a picture from her Facebook profile. From the article: 'In an interview she said, "I told the officer I was at an art opening for a friend, then went home with my boyfriend because he injured his knee. We stayed in for the rest of the night and I did research on the computer for an art installation I was working on. The officer didn't care ... I don't think the police looked into it further." Aston said, the officer "read me my rights. I was searched, finger printed and processed."'"
[From the article:
She retained a lawyer "had numerous court dates and spent thousands of dollars to right this wrong."
She described it as "outrageous" that someone could "scroll down the friends list for the bar and point out someone that had brown hair and bangs" and that would be enough to enter someone into the justice system.

The State Department has a list of third world countries you should avoid. Perhaps we need one for third world states? (I'm now doomed if I ever drive through Arizona)
Arizona pushes law to make 'annoying' comments illegal
… "Government may criminalize speech that rises to the level of harassment and many states have laws that do so," David Horowitz, executive director for the New York-based First Amendment advocacy group Media Coalition, wrote in a letter to Gov. Jan Brewer, "but this legislation takes a law meant to address irritating phone calls and applies it to communication on web sites, blogs, listserves and other Internet communication."
What Horowitz is saying is that this law could be used as grounds to seek criminal charges against someone who posts a pushy, controversial, or offensive comment on a social networking-site like Facebook or Twitter.

Do I really care if the local Dog Catcher owns a few shares of Purina?
April 04, 2012
Disclosure of Assets and Income by Public Officials Is Crucial to Curbing Corruption, Finds New StAR Study
"Disclosure by public officials of their income, assets and interests [Are we talking about their Facebook page? “I love long walks on the beach with my dog...” Bob] should be mandated if the fight against corruption is to succeed, according to a study released today by the Stolen Asset Recovery (StAR) Initiative of the World Bank and the United Nations Office on Drugs and Crime. The first global study of financial disclosure laws and practices, Public Office, Private Interests: Accountability through Income and Asset Disclosure calls for renewed commitment to income and asset disclosure to deter the use of public office for private gain and to help manage actual and apparent conflicts of interest in the public sector. The study also finds that asset disclosure systems are more effective when there is a credible threat that violations will be detected and punished." [A bounty system? Bob]

“Try the veal! (patent pending)”
"Can a farmer commit patent infringement just by planting soybeans he bought on the open market? This week, the Supreme Court asked the Obama administration to weigh in on the question. The Court is pondering an appeals court decision saying that such planting can, in fact, infringe patents. Last year, the United States Court of Appeals for the Federal Circuit ruled, as it had on several previous occasions, that patent exhaustion did not cover second-generation seeds. The Supreme Court has now asked the Solicitor General, the official in charge of representing the Obama administration before the Court, to weigh in on the case."

Perspective: Cable stole the market by offering a wider selection, now they know what the local broadcast stations felt like... Also, it's cheaper, right?
"Netflix and Hulu are convincing millions of cable, satellite and telco subscribers to cut the cord and dive into video streaming. That's the conclusion of a new report released this week by the Convergence Consulting Group, which finds that 2.65 million Americans canceled TV subscriptions between 2008-2011 in favor of lower-cost internet subscription services or video platforms. Though Convergence co-founder Brahm Eiley projects that the number of people opting out of TV subscription services will begin to slow in 2012 and 2013. Part of the problem, Eiley argues, may be the rising price tag for streaming rights to programming which could cause fiscal fits for Netflix."

Perspective: Nothing new here, but I'm seeing many more article on tele-commuting recently than I have for years.
"British telecoms operator O2 has found that 88% of its staff are just as productive working remotely, while one-third claimed that they actually got more work done when they worked from home. 3,000 employees at O2's head office took part in a program that had them to work from home for one day, as practice for problems that may occur during the Olympic Games. From the article: '“The success of O2’s experiment extends much further than just allowing some of the workforce to stay at home and work. It proves that with the right thinking and planning, even the largest organizations can protect themselves from the most severe disruptions to their business,” said Ben Dowd, business director at O2.'"

Perspective (Even if I don't know what new and insightful things this tells me, it must tell me something new and insightful...)
People who love e-reading simply love reading
A report released today by the Pew Research Center shows that one-fifth of U.S. adults have read an e-book in the last year and that e-reader owners not only prefer to buy rather than borrow books, but they also read more books.
… The research center found that e-book readers go through an average of 24 books a year, while those who don't own the digital devices read an average of 15 books a year.
… "Every institution connected to the creation of knowledge and storytelling is experiencing a revolution in the way information is packaged and disseminated," another author of the report Lee Rainie said in a statement. "It's now clear that readers are embracing a new format for books and a significant number are reading more because books can be plucked out of the air."

I know a few techie-lawyers, I wonder what they would come up with?
Found: The Future of Process Servers
By 2022, process servers who sneak up on you to deliver a paper summons will be out of work. By then, all of the devices around you that pinpoint your identity through facial or voice scans will be able to helpfully inform you about any and all court proceedings you have been invited to take part in.

For my Website class...

They may have used Wikipedia to create this Infographic...
Cloud Computing In Action – Rise and Fall of Britannica – Infographic

The business model for e-Wall Street?
With JOBS Act Becoming Law, Crowdfunding Platforms Look To Create Self-Regulatory Body
Today, President Obama signs the JOBS Act into law, legalizing crowdfunding in startups by non-accredited investors, so that anyone and their mother can invest. The new law stipulates that entrepreneurs can now raise money from any and all, however, startups are limited to $1 million per year, and must stick to portals approved by the Securities and Exchange Commission. What’s more, the legislation dispenses with the 500-shareholder rule, which put a limit on the number of shareholders a company was allowed before registering with the SEC (and going public).

It's pretty clear there is a huge market waiting to be served...
India’s Low-Cost Tablet To Get Test Market In Philadelphia Schools?
The saga of India’s “$35 tablet” is long and slightly disappointing. While the idea of low-cost, standard hardware to be distributed in needful communities is a great one, the fact is that the device itself is more or less junk. Poorly built, with a small battery, outdated OS, and low-quality touchscreen, the Aakash has not had a good reception among people who care about such things.
But it’s only the beginning of the road for this type of device, and DataWind, the company that made the Aakash, has already announced the follow-up — and now they’re considering expanding the market to the US. A pilot study may be in the works for under-served schools in Philadelphia.

Dilbert shows us how to exploit the lure of “free stuff!”

Wednesday, April 04, 2012

Another “evil doer” fined mere pennys per victim?  Couldn't we at least recover the taxpayer (MY!) money spent investigating them?
"You probably don't remember the RockYou fiasco as it happened in late 2009. In case you don't, social game developer RockYou suffered a serious SQL injection flaw on its flagship website. Worse, the company was storing user details in plain text. As a result, tens of millions of login details, including those belonging to minors, were stolen and published online. Now, RockYou has finally settled with the Federal Trade Commission."

Y2K! Y2K! If you wait long enough, everything that can go wrong will go wrong. “I'm so lost I don't even know what day it is...”
TomTom sat-nav devices hit by GPS 'leap year bug'
TomTom has blamed a "leap year bug" for a fault causing some of its satellite navigation devices to malfunction.
The firm said that a problem with its global positioning system firmware - code embedded into the devices - was causing "a limited number of models" to fail to identify their location.

"A federal court has thrown out a 2010 Colorado law, which had already been temporarily blocked in federal court last year, meant to spur online retailers like Amazon to collect state sales tax. 'I conclude that the veil provided by the words of the act and the regulations is too thin to support the conclusion that the act and the regulations regulate in-state and out-of-state retailers even-handedly,' U.S. District Judge Robert Blackburn wrote in his opinion. The law and the rules to carry it out 'impose an undue burden on interstate commerce' and are unconstitutional, the judge wrote. The tax mainly affected online sales of out-of-state companies that have in-state affiliates, usually generating sales through links on their websites."
I wonder what this means for the plethora of similar bills in other states. Will Amazon continue to call for a national Internet sales tax if they are all struck down?

It occurs to me that TSA allowed this student to take the science experiment through “security” and onto the plane without comment. Or (much scarier) TSA never noticed it being taken through security.
"A group of students and a professor were detained by TSA at Dallas' Love Field. Several of them were led away in handcuffs. What did they do wrong? One of them left a robotic science experiment behind on an aircraft, which panicked a boarding flight crew. The experiment 'looked like a cell phone attached to a remote control car with some exposed wires protruding.' Of course, the false alarm inconvenienced more than the traveling academics. The airport was temporarily shut down and multiple gates were evacuated, causing flight delays and diversions."

e-Extortion (e-Xtortion?) If you did the same tings without asking for money would you be a hacktivist?
"Crystal Cox, a Montana woman who calls herself an 'investigative journalist' was slapped with a $2.5-million judgment last year for defaming an investment firm and one of its lead partners. Cox had taken control of the Google footprint of Obsidian Finance and its principal Kevin Padrick by writing hundreds of posts about them on dozens of websites she owned, inter-linking them in ways that made them rise up in Google search results; it ruined Obsidian's business due to prospective clients being put off by the firm's seemingly terrible online reputation. After Obsidian sued Cox, she contacted them offering her 'reputation services;' for $2,500 a month, she could 'fix' the firm's reputation and help promote its business. The Forbes Article goes on to describe how she tried to similarly leverage attorneys and journalistts reputations. Finding some of her targets were too well established in google rank to pester or intimidate, Cox moved to family members, reserving domain names for one of her target's 3 year old daughter. Forbes columnist Kashmir Hill makes the case that this clearly isn't journalistm, and establishes a boundary for free speech online."

Who said IP Law was complicated? All you have to do is buy a defense after the fact! (If there aren't already people who call offering the perfect patent or prior art, there certainly should be!)
Facebook countersues Yahoo with patent acquired after being sued by Yahoo

The non sequitur du jour? They “MAY” contain a cure for the common cold. When users asked for the return of legitimate files, they probably meant “legitimate” files. The owners of the child porn are probably too busy relocating to worry about recovering their files.
"In the ongoing Megaupload saga, Carpathia, the company that hosted Megaupload, is in a tough pickle. The EFF wants the data to remain on the servers so that users can get legitimate data back, the MPAA doesn't want the servers back, because it will lead to piracy. Megaupload wants to buy the servers to get all the data, but isn't allowed to as that would have the servers leaving the court's jurisdiction. The U.S .Government won't pay Carpathia for the time that the servers are sitting idle and has a new song in its repertoire by announcing yesterday that the servers 'may contain child pornography,' which would render them 'contraband' and limit Carpathia's options for dealing with them."

Can we learn? (The developers are learning how to sell the app even after the controversy.)
How Location-Based Apps Can Stave Off the ‘Creepy Factor’
Sometimes an app pushes the boundaries of what’s socially acceptable — and it fails miserably. Such is the case with the most recent offender, the check-in-based pariah called Girls Around Me.
… Foursquare pulled its API access because Girls Around Me was just too creepy (and violated their terms).
And so enters the controversy: All of the location data siphoned down by the app was willingly surrendered by Foursquare users. But the way the app used that data was inherently creepy, and highlighted the potential security risks of broadcasting one’s location across social media.
… But what is creepy? What precisely makes us feel creeped out about an app?
“I think it’s anything that allows somebody who you don’t know, or don’t interact with, or don’t want to interact with, to retrieve more information about you than you’re comfortable with,” Kevin Mahaffey, CTO and co-founder of Lookout Mobile Security told Wired. “That’s the trigger that borders on creepy in people’s minds.”
Color was another app that transitioned from cool to ick as users realized nearby strangers would be able to view their photos on the social network — and they could potentially get an eyeful of whatever that person wanted to share, as well
Nick Doty, a Ph.D. student studying privacy and web standards at UC Berkeley’s School of Information, pointed out a few themes that arise among “creepy” apps.
“In some cases, it may just be a sense of surprise. The user isn’t aware information is being used in a particular way, and when they realize it’s being shared or used differently, that can feel like a violation,” Doty said. “In other cases, it can be the context. Information is shared in one context and reused in another one that’s unexpected or has a different implication.”
Over-reaching advertising can also creep us out, Doty says.
As for Girls Around Me, after Foursquare revoked access to its API, the app developers removed it from the App Store. But the app will be back, apparently. Product lead Vlad Vishnyakov told Wired via email that his company will be changing the application name to be gender neutral, and will make the app design “less provocative,” among other changes to meet Foursquare’s API requirements.
“Addressing these concerns is an important part of having a successful business model in the space,” Uncapher told Wired. “Consumers need to feel comfortable sharing information or they wont share it.”

Crowd-sourced funding or money from the cloud, either way it could enable some interesting (and very non-conventional) projects. I'm going to point my students to Kickstarter, but I still want 1% of their start-ups....
Gamemakers Jump on Big-Money Kickstarter Bandwagon
For a while, Kickstarter was the sole domain of scrappy indie makers looking to scrape up a few thousand bucks to get a small idea out into the world. Then Double Fine changed everything.
Although the studio was already well-established, selling its comedic games to big publishers like Warner Bros., Electronic Arts and THQ, it couldn't find a publisher willing to back a classic point-and-click adventure game, the sort of thing that made its founder Tim Schafer famous in the first place. So it took to Kickstarter, asking for $400,000 -- in Kickstarter terms, a lot of money. The project ended up getting $3.3 million, illustrating that the crowdfunding model could scale way, way up if the idea came from an established player with a large fan base.
And then the floodgates opened. Since Double Fine's Kickstarter triumph, many more makers of niche games have taken to the crowdfunding site to pitch projects that publishers won't take a risk on. They're asking for big budgets. Some are getting far more than they asked for, some are having trouble finding fans.

Not at all surprising. The invention of trains marked the start of a tremendous increase in the number of horses used in transportation (to move goods the short distance from the farm to the railroads so farmers could reach the new markets a long distance away)
We’re Using Way More Paper Than We Ever Have Before
According to The Economist, worldwide paper consumption has increased by half in the last 30 years, a puzzling development for an era when "paperless" and "green" are as buzzy as words can get. You'd think that with the rise of computers, iPads and smartphones that paper consumption would shrink, but apparently humans are still ripping down spruces and pines at an alarming rate. So save a tree—buy a Kindle.

Interesting look at eBusiness models? (I find it interesting because it fits my model of “Change” – that's me saying “I told you so!”)
Why digital-native media will (almost) always win
Much of the traditional media business has been in the doldrums for some time now, a victim of declining circulation and the free-fall of print advertising that has sucked the oxygen out of many traditional business models. And yet, many of these companies still have only taken small steps (if any) towards trying to carve out a future for themselves by adapting to the digital world. Why is that? As Paul Smalera of Reuters argued in a recent post, the biggest issue is not that they can’t see the need to change, it’s that they are caught between trying to manage their existing businesses — which in most cases still produce the bulk of their revenue — and trying to create new ones. In media as in every other field, the fastest and most successful innovators will almost always be the ones that have no legacy business to worry about.
The impetus for Smalera’s post was a table produced by LinkedIn as part of a report that looked at which industries and sectors prospered (or failed to) during and after the recession. At the very bottom of the list of industries that have shrunk was the newspaper business — which won’t come as any surprise to those who have followed the industry’s twists and turns over the past decade, or anyone who has noticed events like the recent sale of the Philadelphia Inquirer and the Philadelphia Daily News for about 10 percent of what they fetched in a sale just six years ago. At the same time, however, Smalera notes that the “online publishing” sector was one of the fastest-growing industries:

(Related) Is this how “magazines” will survive? Netflix for print?
Next Issue Media launches with all-you-can-read pricing model

(Related) Yes, it is change – but is it enough change? I think not (but I've been spectacularly wrong before).
With $25M From Benchmark And Larry Summers Advising, Can Minerva Build An Online Ivy?
Well, we’ve said it before: Technology is changing education. It’s flipping the classroom, bringing instructional videos to the masses, and dragging online higher education into legitimacy. Investors have begun to hear the call, as was evidenced today when Benchmark Capital made its largest seed investment to date — $25 million — in a startup/university called The Minerva Project.
For more on The Minerva Project, check it out at home here.

Looks like we'll see several experiments like this one. Might be worth monitoring...
"Today the Polish government started a Digital School pilot program, which includes distributing e-textbooks. This came after a years-long effort by the Open Education Coalition and its members to persuade policy makers, that Open Educational Resources are the future of education. The last few months have been especially eventful, as the free textbooks part of the program was dropped by the Ministry of Education and reinstated again by the Prime Minister Office." [Education as “political football” Bob]

(Related) Just like a paint brush makes your child a Da Vinci...
"With the wide array of electronic devices available in our everyday lives, it appears that children have formed an attachment to a different kind of toy. According to the latest survey, 77 per cent of polled US, UK parents believe that iPads and other tablets are good educational tools that boost kids' creativity. Meanwhile, researchers in this field explain that it is a matter of balance — and a child's access to tablets and other similar electronic devices should be monitored. Specialists warn that using tablets in excess could cause attention deficit disorder and even autism, particularly at a very young age." [What caused these before tablets? Bob]

Search is in flux. Some changes may actually be useful! Here are a few...
  • Autocomplete with math symbols. [launch codename "Blackboard", project codename "Suggest"] When we process queries to return predictions in autocomplete, we generally normalize them to match more relevant predictions in our database. This change incorporates several characters that were previously normalized: “+”, “-”, “*”, “/”, “^”, “(“, “)”, and “=”. This should make it easier to search for popular equations, for example [e = mc2] or [y = mx+b].
  • Improvements to handling of symbols for indexing. [launch codename "Deep Maroon"] We generally ignore punctuation symbols in queries. Based on analysis of our query stream, we’ve now started to index the following heavily used symbols: “%”, “$”, “\”, “.”, “@”, “#”, and “+”. We’ll continue to index more symbols as usage warrants.
  • Better handling of password changes. Our general approach is that when you change passwords, you’ll be signed out from your account on all machines. This change ensures that changing your password more consistently signs your account out of Search, everywhere.

A new resource for my website class...
Codecademy is a place where anyone can learn how to write code. The only problem was Codecademy's early lessons assumed that you already knew or could figure out some HTML basics. As I learned through Mashable on Monday, that has changed.
Codecademy is now offering lessons in basic HTML and CSS. Now even people who can't code a hyperlink can learn to program. Codecademy's new lessons in basic HTML start with the very basics of explaining what HTML is, what it does, and how to write the basics. There are seven progressively more difficult lessons that students can work through on their own.

It's definitely not “everything” but it is a start..
Everything You Wanted to Know About Data Mining but Were Afraid to Ask
Big data is everywhere we look these days. Businesses are falling all over themselves to hire 'data scientists,' privacy advocates are concerned about personal data and control, and technologists and entrepreneurs scramble to find new ways to collect, control and monetize data.
This article is an attempt to explain how data mining works and why you should care about it. Because when we think about how our data is being used, it is crucial to understand the power of this practice. Without data mining, when you give someone access to information about you, all they know is what you have told them. With data mining, they know what you have told them and can guess a great deal more. [Please! “predict with a high degree of certainty” Bob] Put another way, data mining allows companies and governments to use the information you provide to reveal more than you think.
… These general forms illustrate what data mining can do.
Anomaly detection
Association learning
Cluster detection

A handy-dandy little chart, neat!
Last week I had to do a workshop about WolframAlpha, and I noticed that there are three different feature sets: not logged in, logged in, logged in to Pro.
I needed to know which login settings provided which features (especially for giving workshops and working with students), so I decided to be thorough about it. You can download the PDF of this document, Guide to Wolfram Alpha Features, as well.

Tuesday, April 03, 2012

We only worry about the one's we (or someone on the 'net) notice.
The Creepiest Apps and Sites
Girls Around Me might be no more, but these apps and sites are just as scary.
Despite the outrage, though, it's the information that someone voluntarily enters into a social networking site to reconnect with friends, divulges in a survey for a chance to win an iPad, or inadvertently uploads along with a photo of a night out that can be their undoing. Apps like Girls Around Me merely exploit the vulnerabilities that users themselves have created.

An update on yesterday's report
alphadogg writes with a distressing bit of analysis of the training materials acquired by the ACLU last week. From the article:
"Many law enforcement agencies across the U.S. track mobile phones as part of investigations, but only a minority ask for court-ordered warrants, according to a report released Monday by the American Civil Liberties Union. More than 90 law enforcement agencies said they track mobile phones during investigations, but only six reported receiving court-approved warrants after demonstrating that there's probable cause of a crime, according to an ACLU report based on public information requests filed by the group last year."
The ACLU has a handy page allowing you to see if your local PD engages in such practices.

(Related) Apparently, there is a gold mine of interesting articles contained in the ACLU data...
How Apple and Google help police bypass iPhone, Android lock screens

Quel Dommage! I wish the actual numbers were easily available because I suspect a 43% decline in the Trillions of Francs they lost to pirates is significantly more that their entire annual sales of “hard media”
"France has one of the strictest anti-piracy laws. After 17 months of operation, Hadopi has released a report, claiming that illegal P2P downloads have been reduced significantly in the country: the studies they cite measured 43% and 66% decrease in copyright infringement. But that huge amount of 'lost revenue' doesn't seem to show up in the French recording industry, as the overall recorded music market has decreased by 3.9% in 2011. Even more interesting is that digital music sales have skyrocketed in France. Could it be that it's not piracy killing the traditional recording industry but digital distribution?"

What hath Hillary wrought?
April 02, 2012
Revolution @State: The Spread of Ediplomacy
  • "The US State Department has become the world’s leading user of ediplomacy. Ediplomacy now employs over 150 full-time personnel working in 25 different ediplomacy nodes at Headquarters. More than 900 people use it at US missions abroad. Ediplomacy is now used across eight different program areas at State: Knowledge Management, Public Diplomacy and Internet Freedom dominate in terms of staffing and resources. However, it is also being used for Information Management, Consular, Disaster Response, harnessing External Resources and Policy Planning. In some areas ediplomacy is changing the way State does business. In Public Diplomacy, State now operates what is effectively a global media empire, reaching a larger direct audience than the paid circulation of the ten largest US dailies and employing an army of diplomat-journalists to feed its 600-plus platforms. In other areas, like Knowledge Management, ediplomacy is finding solutions to problems that have plagued foreign ministries for centuries. The slow pace of adaptation to ediplomacy by many foreign ministries suggests there is a degree of uncertainty over what ediplomacy is all about, what it can do and how pervasive its influence is going to be. This report – the result of a four-month research project in Washington DC – should help provide those answers."

Perspective Clearly, I'm a very small fish in an ever expanding pond...
April 02, 2012
NielsonWire - Buzz in the Blogosphere: Millions More Bloggers and Blog Readers
  • "Blogs are sometimes overlooked as a significant source of online buzz in comparison to social networking sites, yet consumer interest in blogs keeps growing. By the end of 2011, NM Incite, a Nielsen/McKinsey company, tracked over 181 million blogs around the world, up from 36 million only five years earlier in 2006. People are churning out more content than ever, and blogging remains an important avenue for consumer expression, according to an NM Incite report. Consumer-generated blogs have continued a strong upward trend since the company began tracking them in 2006, according to the U.S. Digital Consumer Report State of The Media: Q3-Q4 2011. While Facebook continues to be the social media juggernaut, don't count blogging out. Combined, the three major blogging platforms -- Blogger, Wordpress and Tumbler, in that order -- account for 80.5 million unique pairs of eyeballs in October 2011, NM Incite said today. (Facebook had 139.1 million unique that month.)" [a hat tip to all my blogging colleagues whose tenure is moving into a second decade - You're the beast!]

Perspective We don't teach numbers that large in schools because they are “astronomical”
What to Do With 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 Bytes of Astronomical Data per Day
Over the next 12 years, thousands of antennas will be built and installed across a 5,000-kilometer stretch of the southern hemisphere. Satellite dishes, tripod-like dipole antennas, and tiled circular stations will dot arid savannas and comprise the world’s biggest, most accurate radio telescope ever constructed: the Square Kilometer Array.
… the SKA represents a new step in terms of data management and the complexities of project coordination. The instrument will generate an exabyte of data every day – that would be 1,000,000,000,000,000,000 bytes – more than twice the information sent around the internet on a daily basis and 100 times more information than the LHC produces.

Why can't we leave the dead, dead!
Help Recreate Leisure Suit Larry For The 21st Century
This $500,000 Kickstarter project aims to recreate LSL using the latest in graphics technology and the original game’s author, Al Lowe, will be helping to regenerate his besuited cad.
Fifteen dollars gets you a digital copy of the game while $10,000 gets you: [No comment Bob]

If I'm going to combine sound and pictures, shouldn't they be moving pictures?
BrainShark, is a service for narrating and sharing slide presentations online. I've written about some of their offerings in the past. Recently they launched a new service for sharing PowerPoint presentations through Box. Now you can share your PowerPoint files with others for viewing and or file editing. Learn more about the new service in the video below.
One of BrainShark's signature offerings is their SlideShark service for sharing PowerPoint presentations over iPads. SlideShark converts your PowerPoint files without losing any of your original formatting, transitions, or animations. To use SlideShark just upload your PPT files to your free SlideShark account, SlideShark converts the files for you, then you can access your converted files on your iPad at anytime using the free SlideShark app.
BrainShark also offers myBrainshark for Android to share presentations that you narrate on myBrainshark. Here's how myBrainshark works; upload a slide presentation that you've created then use your computer's microphone to record your voice over each slide. If you don't have a microphone My Brainshark provides a phone number that you can call to create a voice recording.

Do I have a book that Google hasn't already scanned?
1DollarScan Improves Its Book Digitization Service With Fine Tune and Dropbox
Users send their books, documents, photos, and other printed material to the 1DollarScan office, which then handles the scan process. For a price of $1 per “set” (for books, one set means 100 pages; for documents, it’s 10), you get a PDF that you can read on your smartphone or tablet. Don’t send any physical copies that you’re particularly attached to, however, because books will have their spines removed for scanning, and all of the printed materials will be recycled two weeks after the scan.

Stay current... I could create (curate?) a list of RSS feeds for each subject I teach, then have the students create an account and add my OPML file to it...
Google Reader is receiving a lot of flak for some of the changes they have made as of late. This opens the door for a new competitor to step in and try to dethrone the almighty Google. Subpug is hoping to be your replacement. They offer a great feature set, and they are incredibly easy to use.
They especially cater to new RSS users, who aren’t following thousands of feeds already. They offer a bunch of pre-subscribed categories that make it easy to find what you are in to, and subscribe to some popular sites in that category. Best of all, you don’t need to sign up for any kind of account to start using their service. You simply go to their website, and start reading.
You can also import an OPML file to add all the feeds you read on another reader.

For my students...
To begin the conversion process, you’ll want to click the Convert link across the top menu. From there, you can enter your text body (up to 2,000 words). You’ll also need to enter a valid email address, as they send the file as an attachment to your email.
Festvox is extremely fast and free. Right from the main page, you’re able to select one of four audio types and voices of either American, Spanish, Indian, Scottish, or British.
vozMe is just as quick as Festvox, but converts text to the MP3 format. No registration is required and you can immediately download and save your text to speech recordings. vozMe also supports conversion of the Spanish language.
SpokenText is by far the most extensive solution I’ve found. Though it requires account registration, it’s completely worth it.
More than just text to speech, Zamzar is one of the most feature-rich and functional conversion tools on the web. In our scenario, you’ll want to either convert your block of text to a TXT file and upload it, or enter a URL that you want to convert.

Someone might like this...
Who Wants To Be a YouTube Millionaire?
DV Guide: You too can make millions! Today, we tell you how you can join those who have used YouTube to bank the big bucks.