Friday, December 29, 2006

Do Google's 'tips' Make You Lose Trust?

One of the lead developers behind the Firefox browser has accused Google -- through "tips" that pop up with search results -- of abusing its powerful position in the search market to promote its growing range of products. In a blog posting this week, Blake Ross said Google is wrong to include such plugs for its Calendar, Blogger and Picasa services at the top of results for terms like "calendar," "blogging" or "photo sharing."
"This is clearly bad for competitors, and it's also a bad sign for Google," wrote Ross, 21, who has been one of the driving forces behind Firefox. As Ross pointed out, many other Web companies also cross-promote their services. However, he argued that Google -- with its motto of "Don't be evil" -- should hold itself to a higher standard.
The issue has sparked a lively online debate. Some back Ross, agreeing that users could lose confidence in Google if they perceive it as not giving truly impartial information. Others, though, insist that Google is acting within its rights and treats its rivals fairly.

EDITORIAL: I'm with Blake Ross on this one -- Google should hold itself to a higher standard. Self-promotion of this type is dishonest when you're the company providing the search results. It makes you wonder who else is benefiting from crooked search results. Are business partners being placed higher in the Google rankings than is legitimate?

Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Old Cracks Found in New Windows Vista
Redmond, we have a problem. The brand spanking-new Windows operating system called Vista - billed as "the most secure version of Windows yet" on the Microsoft Web site - has proven a pushover for Internet hackers. Microsoft has acknowledged Vista has a flaw that could allow users to increase their access level to administrator, a problem first posted by a Russian hacker.
A flaw was also found in Microsoft's new Internet Explorer 7 that could download viruses from a booby-trapped Web page. That flaw and five others were reported by Determina, a Silicon Valley computer security company. "We are closely monitoring developments," said Microsoft's Mike Reavey, operations manager for the Redmond, Wash. company's emergency response team. "Currently we have not observed any public exploitation or attack activity regarding this issue," he wrote. And, he insisted, "I still have every confidence that Windows Vista is our most secure platform to date."
But news of the IE7 flaw and the hacker postings is a black eye for Bill Gates and Microsoft - and for the thousands of PC makers who will begin selling their computers next month with Vista. Thousands of consumers put off buying computers this Christmas season waiting for the release at the end of January of the new upgrade from Windows XP to Windows Vista.
One online tech expert, Jay Dougherty, wrote for the German Press Agency that Vista may prove a tough sell for folks already happy with their home computers, especially because the current XP system has proven to be relatively stable. "People are tired of upgrading - especially when the benefits of doing so are difficult to articulate or uninspiring. That's the problem with Microsoft's Vista operating system in a nutshell," he wrote.
Vista's big selling points, besides it supposed safety and security, are its stunning 3D graphics that many critics argue is simply an attempt - and a bad one at that - to match what Apple has had for years on the Macintosh.

Thursday, December 21, 2006

Pro-Family Advocates Cast Doubt on Guttmacher's Reported Premarital Sex Stats

A pro-family group is expressing skepticism about the accuracy of a new report that says 95 percent of Americans have had premarital sex. A study by Lawrence Finer of the Alan Guttmacher Institute finds that 99 percent of Americans had sex by the age of 44, and 95 percent had done so before getting married.
The "reality-check research," as Finer calls it, was based on interviews of more than 38,000 people, some 33,000 of them women, in 1982, 1988, 1995 and 2002 for the federal National Survey on Family Growth. The study purportedly examined how sexual behavior before marriage has changed over time. According to Finer's analysis, even among those individuals who abstained from sex until at least age 20, four-fifths had premarital sex by age 44. The study also found women, even those born decades ago, virtually as likely as men to engage in premarital sex.
An Associated Press report on the study quotes Finer as saying that the likelihood of Americans having sex before marriage has remained stable since the 1950s. In other words, the researcher claims premarital sex is "normal behavior for the vast majority of Americans, and has been for decades."
However, Dr. Janice Crouse of Concerned Women for America (CWA) sees Finer's report as a ploy to cast doubt on the need for abstinence-until-marriage programs. "My eyebrows went up when I first saw the numbers," she recalls, "and I thought that the results were a bit too pat because they fit so specifically into the agenda of Planned Parenthood and the Guttmacher Institute." For that reason, Crouse says she is "quite suspicious" about the numbers cited in the Institute's report. "They are so extreme," she contends, "I think you'd have to have another study done to replicate those results before I would buy into them."
One reason the CWA spokeswoman feels the credibility of this report on Americans and premarital sex needs to be questioned is that Finer works for a group which she believes actually favors both extramarital sex and abortion. The Guttmacher Institute, a private New York-based think tank that investigates sexual and reproductive issues, is an organization that strongly discourages government-funded abstinence-only programs and instead promotes so-called "comprehensive sex education," which is condom-based and emphasizes the concept of "safe sex."
The Guttmacher Institute is among a number of organizations, including the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS) and the Planned Parenthood Federation of America, that tout "sexual rights" and "reproductive rights" -- terms many pro-family and pro-life supporters understand to mean unrestricted sexual license and the right to abortion on demand. The Institute's website, similar to those of Planned Parenthood and SIECUS, expresses the organization's commitment to individuals' rights to express themselves sexually -- regardless of marital status -- and to have access to "comprehensive" information that will enable them to avoid unwanted pregnancy and sexually transmitted disease and to "exercise the right to choose abortion."
"The federal programs prior to the Bush administration were overwhelmingly supportive of comprehensive sex education, of course, which is provided by Planned Parenthood and supported by Guttmacher and SIECUS and all of the left-wing groups," Crouse says. "And now that there is some money -- just a tad of money -- going for abstinence-till-marriage programs, [such groups] are objecting to any money whatsoever being spent in that direction."
Lawrence Finer talks about people needing a "reality check" regarding premarital sex, Crouse adds. However, she insists it is his research that needs the reality check.

Abstinence Education Advocate: Guttmacher's Facts Are Skewed
Abstinence-based sex education proponent Leslee Unruh, who heads the South Dakota-based Abstinence Clearinghouse, is also suspicious of the Guttmacher Institute's findings -- and of the motives behind them. "Of course, right now we know the reason abstinence education is being attacked and these types of studies are going to continue to come up more and more in the following months," she says, "is because of the reauthorization of Title V. Title V is the federal dollars that are funding the abstinence-until-marriage program across the nation."
Unruh says Guttmacher has been a part of Planned Parenthood in the past, and it continues to have an interest in pushing "this new, so-called research," which appears to support comprehensive sex education programs. However, she insists that the sexual "freedom" being promoted by Guttmacher and the other organizations pushing the "safe-sex" myth has failed an entire generation of Americans. "The sexual revolution came, it went, and it lost," the Abstinence Clearinghouse director observes. "The sexual revolution ended the last century, and we feel people need to be looking to what the newfound research is on sexuality," she says. "Today's a new day, and we know that from the studies we have seen, that many young people are demanding the higher standard of abstinence education."
Abstinence Clearinghouse has seen study after study indicating that increasing numbers of young people are open to the abstinence message and that many are choosing to remain chaste until marriage, Unruh observes. "According to the CDC, there are less kids having sex now than those that are," she asserts. "So we have numbers that show there is a different thought process going on in America right now, and we believe a lot of that has to do with the fact that these programs raise the bar."
Condom-based sex education, Unruh suggests, can have the effect of communicating to young people that "everyone else" is having sex, and that having premarital sex is not only normal but inevitable. What abstinence-only education does, the pro-family advocate contends, is empower young people to choose intimacy over immediate gratification, love over lust, so that more and more are "looking to a lifetime mate, a monogamous relationship, and choosing purity over promiscuity."

Wednesday, December 20, 2006

Premarital Sex the Norm in America?

Premarital Sex Research Shows by Age 44, 95% of Americans Have Had Ummarried Sex
Almost all Americans have sex before marrying, according to premarital sex research that shows such behavior is the norm in the U.S. and has been for the past 50 years.
The new study shows that by age 20, 75% of Americans have had premarital sex. That number rises to 95% by age 44. Even among those who abstained from sex until 20 or beyond, 81% have had premarital sex by 44, the survey shows. Researchers say the findings question the feasibility of federally funded abstinence-only education programs.
"Premarital sex is normal behavior for the vast majority of Americans, and has been for decades," says researcher Lawrence Finer, director of domestic research at the Guttmacher Institute, in a news release. "The data clearly show that the majority of older teens and adults have already had sex before marriage, which calls into question the federal government's funding of abstinence-only-until-marriage programs for 12–29-year-olds. It would be more effective to provide young people with the skills and information they need to be safe once they become sexually active -- which nearly everyone eventually will," says Finer.

Premarital Sex Research
In the study, published in Public Health Reports, researchers analyzed data from four cycles of the National Survey of Family Growth from 1982 to 2002, which included information on sexual and marital behaviors. The results showed that the vast majority of Americans have sex before marrying. For example, the 2002 survey showed:

  • By age 20, 77% of men and women had had sex, including 75% who had had premarital sex.
  • By age 44, 95% of men and women had had premarital sex; 97% of those who had ever had sex had had premarital sex.
  • Among those who had abstained from sex until at least age 20, 81% had had premarital sex by age 44.

Despite public opinion that premarital sex is much more common now than in the past, researchers say the number of Americans having premarital sex hasn't changed much since the 1940s. Among women who turned 15 between 1964 and 1993, 91% had had premarital sex before age 30, compared with 82% of women who turned 15 between 1954 and 1963. In addition, nearly nine out of 10 women who turned 15 between 1954 and 1963 had had unmarried sex by age 44.
Researchers say that though the likelihood that Americans will have sex before marriage hasn't changed significantly since the 1950s, people are now waiting longer to get married. So they are sexually active and unmarried for longer than in the past.

SOURCES: Finer, L. Public Health Reports, January-February 2007; vol 122: pp 73-78. News release, The Guttmacher Institute.
Article: WebMD

It's not Harry Potter and the Deathly Hollows, but it is interesting reading. Personally, I believe the data was either "massaged" to obtain the results the group wanted to obtain OR the findings/data are flawed. There are several studies out showing the abstinence education is not only working, but that only about half of America's young woman are engaging in premarital sex. Somehow, I doubt that 75% of Americans (the majority, women) are having sex before marriage. The TV, magazines and radio programs rabidly promote promiscuous sex, BUT people just aren't "doing it".
I believe a reputable group with refute the Guttmacher findings rather quickly. I'm anxious to see how this shakes out.

Tuesday, December 19, 2006

FBI Data Shows Violent Crime Still on Rise in United States

Murders and robberies continued to rise across the country during the first six months of 2006, on pace for an increase in violent crime for a second straight year, preliminary FBI data released Monday show. The overall 3.7 percent uptick in violent crime between January and June comes amid a still-incomplete Justice Department study of 18 cities for clues on why criminal activity is increasing. [Click here to view the report]

Property crimes like auto theft and other larcenies were down by 2.6 percent over the same six-month period, the data show. But the number of arsons shot up by nearly 7 percent, the FBI reported. The numbers reflect what police across the country have been saying for months: that the lull in crime between 2001 and 2004 appears to be over.
"This is a concern we've been focused on," said Gene Voegtlin, legislative counsel for the International Association of Chiefs of Police, which represents an estimated 20,000 law enforcement officials and has been pushing for more crime-fighting funding. "A lot of (police) agencies are really stretched thin when it comes to the budget and their ability to aggressively combat crime." The Justice Department did not have an immediate comment.
Last month, the department launched what Attorney General Alberto Gonzales called a study "to figure out the whys behind the numbers," but Justice researchers have not yet visited all of the targeted regions, a spokesman said Monday.
The early data show:
  • Murders rose by 1.4 percent, felony assaults by 1.2 percent and robberies by a whopping 9.7 percent in 2006, compared to the first six months of 2005. The number of rapes decreased by less than one-tenth of 1 percent.
  • Burglaries increased by 1.2 percent. But car thefts dropped by 2.3 percent and other stealing incidents by 3.8 percent.
  • Arsons rose by 6.8 percent.

The data is based on crime reports from 11,535 police and other law enforcement agencies nationwide. The total number of actual crimes reported was not immediately available.

Monday, December 18, 2006

End of an Era: FCC to Drop Morse Testing for All Amateur License Classes

Article by the
In an historic move, the FCC has acted to drop the Morse code requirement for all Amateur Radio license classes. The Commission adopted, but hasn't yet released, the long-awaited Report and Order (R&O) in WT Docket 05-235, the "Morse code" proceeding. The FCC also has adopted an Order on Reconsideration in WT Docket 04-140 -- the "omnibus" proceeding -- modifying the Amateur Radio rules in response to an ARRL request to accommodate automatically controlled narrowband digital stations on 80 meters in the wake of rule changes that became effective December 15. The Commission designated the 3585 to 3600 kHz frequency segment for such operations, although the segment will remain available for CW, RTTY and data as it has been.
So far, the FCC has only issued a public notice and not the actual orders detailing the rule changes. The effective date of both orders is not yet known, but it appears likely at this point that it will be sometime in February. Currently, Amateur Radio applicants must pass a 5 WPM Morse code test to operate on high frequency (HF). The FCC's action will eliminate that requirement all around.
"This change eliminates an unnecessary regulatory burden that may discourage current Amateur Radio operators from advancing their skills and participating more fully in the benefits of Amateur Radio," the FCC said. The ARRL had asked the FCC to retain the 5 WPM for Amateur Extra class applicants only. The FCC proposed earlier to drop the requirement across the board, however, and it held to that decision. The FCC's action in WT Docket 05-235 will grant limited HF privileges to all Technician licensees, whether or not they've passed a Morse code examination. Once the R&O goes into effect, all Technician class license holders will be able to enjoy current "Tech Plus" HF privileges in addition to their current VHF/UHF privileges. The FCC said the R&O in the Morse code docket would eliminate a disparity in the operating privileges for the Technician and Technician Plus class licensees -- something the ARRL also has asked the Commission to correct following the release of its July 2005 Notice of Proposed Rule Making (NPRM) in WT Docket 05-235.
"With today's elimination of the Morse code exam requirements, the FCC concluded that the disparity between the operating privileges of Technician class licensees and Technician Plus class licensees should not be retained," the FCC public notice said. "Therefore, the FCC, in today's action, afforded Technician and Technician Plus licensees identical operating privileges."
Technician licensees without Element 1 credit currently have operating privileges on all amateur frequencies above 30 MHz. Technicians with Element 1 credit (ie, "Tech Plus" licensees) have limited HF privileges on 80, 40, 15 and 10 meters. Under the Part 97 rules the Commission proposed last year in its NPRM in WT Docket 05-235, current Technicians lacking Morse credit after the new rules went into effect would have had to upgrade to General to earn any HF privileges. Privileges will remain the same for Novice, General, Advanced and Amateur Extra class licensees.
Typically, the effective date of a FCC order comes 30 days after its publication in the Federal Register. If that's the case, the new exam requirement and the revised 80-meter segment for automatically controlled digital stations would likely not go into effect until sometime in February, 2007. At the time the rule changes adopted in the R&O are published in the Federal Register, the effective date also will become known (it is included in the Federal Register summary). In any event, the new rules will not go into effect anytime before they show up in the Federal Register.
The FCC has clarified that there will be no changes in the administration of Amateur Radio examination elements and in granting a Certificate for Successful Completion of Examination (CSCE) for General and Extra class until the new rules go into effect. CSCEs are only valid for examination credit for 365 days from date of issuance; applicants cannot use CSCEs older than that to upgrade. Volunteer Examiner Coordinators (VECs) will handle all upgrades through volunteer examiner teams.
Candidates for General or Amateur Extra testing between now and the effective date of the new rules will still have to pass Element 1 (5 WPM Morse code) to obtain new privileges. Those earning Element 3 or Element 4 credit between now and the effective date of the new rules will receive a CSCE from the VE team. Once the new rules are in place, anyone holding a valid CSCE may apply for an upgrade at a VE examination session and will have to pay the $14 fee.
The wholesale elimination of a Morse code requirement for all license classes ends a longstanding national and international regulatory tradition in the requirements to gain access to Amateur Radio frequencies below 30 MHz. The first no-code license in the US was the Technician ticket, instituted in 1991. The question of whether or not to drop the Morse requirement altogether has been the subject of often-heated debate over the past several years, but the handwriting has been on the wall -- especially since the FCC instituted an across-the-board 5 WPM Morse requirement effective April 15, 2000, in the most-recent major Amateur Radio licensing restructuring (WT Docket 98-143).
The FCC said the R&O in WT Docket 05-235 will comport with revisions to the international Radio Regulations resulting from the International Telecommunication Union (ITU) World Radiocommunication Conference 2003 (WRC-03). At that gathering, delegates agreed to authorize each country to determine whether or not to require that applicants demonstrate Morse code proficiency in order to qualify for an Amateur Radio license with privileges on frequencies below 30 MHz. The list of countries dropping the Morse requirement has been growing steadily since WRC-03. A number of countries, including Canada, the UK and several European nations, now no longer require applicants for an Amateur Radio license to pass a Morse code test to gain HF operating privileges. Following WRC-03, the FCC received several petitions for rule making asking it to eliminate the Morse requirement in the US. The ARRL will provide any additional information on these important Part 97 rule revisions as it becomes available.

PERSONAL NOTE: I passed the General Test in September, 2005 (at the Shelby Hamfest) in hopes that the NPRM for WT Docket 05-235 would be issued prior to September, 2006. Looks like I was a few months early -- and will need to pass the exam again. BUT, that's a good reason to start studying again! This ruling will likely mean a huge boon for amateur radio -- one that is sorely needed.

Technology History - The CD

Philips and Sony decided to join forces in 1979 -- to design a digital audio disc. Over the next year, the Compact Disc was invented collectively by a large group of people working as a team from both companies. The Compact Disc eventually reached the market in late 1982. It was enthusiastically received, marking a major event in the evolution of digital audio.

Sunday, December 17, 2006

Top Ten Junk Science Moments for 2006

by Steven Milloy on FOX

It’s time again for’s review of the most notable junk science events of the year – a “top 10” list that may sometimes make you think that the year 1007, rather than 2007, is just around the corner.

1. Some Real Inconvenient Truth. Al Gore whipped the world into a global warming frenzy with his doomsday documentary, “An Inconvenient Truth.” I personally asked Mr. Gore to help arrange a debate between scientists about the purported climate catastrophe. He declined (twice) without explanation – leaving me to wonder why global warming alarmists are unwilling to explain why they believe in non-validated and always-wrong computer guess-timations of future climate change rather than actual temperature measurements and greenhouse-effect physics that indicate manmade emissions of greenhouse gases are not a problem.

2. Board of Health or Bored of Science? New York City’s Board of Health banned restaurants from serving foods cooked with vegetable oils containing trans fats. It apparently mattered little to the Board that the Food and Drug Administration classifies trans fats as “generally recognized as safe” and that the sort of “science” the Board relied on could also be used to ban potatoes, peas, meat, dairy products and many other food items from restaurants.

3. What Hurricane Season? The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration’s prediction for the 2006 hurricane season was about as wrong as wrong can be. NOAA predicted only a 5 percent chance of a below-normal hurricane season – but a below-normal season is precisely what happened. If NOAA’s experts can be so wrong about an imminent hurricane season, why have any confidence in far more complex predictions of climate change 100 years into the future?

4. Day of Reckoning for DDT Foes? It only took 30 years, tens of millions of lives lost, billions sickened and trillions of dollars of economic growth foregone, but the World Health Organization finally ended its ban on use of the insecticide DDT to kill malaria-bearing mosquitoes. It’s great news for developing nations that want to employ the most affordable and effective anti-malarial tool. So what should happen to those environmental activists and government regulators who used junk science to have DDT banned in the first place?

5. Cosmic ray study fails to penetrate lead-lined media. Swedish researchers provided experimental evidence that cosmic rays may be a major factor in climate change. They calculated that just 5 years of cosmic ray activity can have 85 percent of the effect on the Earth’s climate as 200 years of manmade carbon dioxide emissions. Though the study was published in the prestigious Proceedings of the Royal Society A, the findings went largely unreported by the Al Gore-smitten media.

6. Stem cell fraud and futility. Incoming Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi plans to introduce legislation lifting the limits on federal funding of embryonic stem cell (ESC) research. But she ought to pay attention to what did, and what did not happen, in ESC research during 2006. What did happen was the indictment of prominent South Korean ESC researcher Hwang Woo-suk for faking his research. What didn’t happen was any meaningful advance in ESC research. One alleged ESC research advance hyped in the journal Nature (harvesting of ESCs without destroying the embryos) had to be corrected to note that none of the embryos in question actually survived the procedure – oops.

7. Low-fat diet myth busted. The widely-held 30-year old notion that low-fat diets are good for your health went “poof” this year. They didn’t reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease or cancer, according to three large studies published in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Sadly, the lesson of low-fat diet myth seems lost on the media which looked the other way as public health nannies fomented the scientifically dubious trans fat scare.

8. Woodpecker Racket. The 2005 reported sighting of the thought-to-be-extinct Ivory-billed Woodpecker in eastern Arkansas raised hopes of bird-watchers everywhere. But a prominent bird expert cast serious doubt on the report in 2006, characterizing it as “faith-based” ornithology and “a disservice to science.” But the debunking may not matter. Environmental groups used the dubious sighting to convince a federal judge in July 2006 to stop a nearby $320 million Army Corps of Engineers irrigation project. Given that the anti-development Nature Conservancy funded the “search” for the woodpecker in the first place, the supposed “sighting” turned out to be quite convenient.

9. Food police indict SpongeBob Squarepants. Several anti-fun food activist groups sued Nickelodeon and Kellogg for using cartoon characters to advertise food products to children. “Nickelodeon and Kellogg engage in business practices that literally sicken our children,” the groups claimed. Though the activists attempted to exploit a widely publicized report from the Institute of Medicine concluding that advertising to kids is effective, the IOM report did not examine and, therefore, did not link advertising to kids’ health problems.

10. California’s Not-so-deadly Air. Bill Clinton and Julia Roberts stumped for California’s Proposition 87 which would tax oil to fund alternative energy research. Mr. Clinton and Ms. Roberts claimed that California’s air is the “worst in the nation” and that it was linked with more asthma, bronchitis, lung cancer, heart disease, lung disease and premature death. But data (as opposed to political rhetoric) indicate that California’s public health is generally better than that of states which fully meet federal air quality standards. Maybe that’s one reason why voters rejected Proposition 87.

So despite the relentless march of junk scientists, particularly with respect to global warming, let’s be grateful that the DDT ban has finally been lifted. We’ll tackle Al Gore and his climate groupies next year.

Steven Milloy publishes and He is a junk science expert , anadvocate of free enterprise and an adjunct scholar at the Competitive Enterprise Institute .

Saturday, December 16, 2006

Technology History - Usenet

Usenet's roots go back to 1979 when the idea of sharing information and news within a community of computer users was realized by two graduate students. They develop conferencing software and connect computers at Duke and the University of North Carolina. Usenet grew and subsequently turned into a network that connects tens of thousands of sites around the world, from mainframes to PCs.

Friday, December 15, 2006

Solar Storm May Ground Aircraft, Overload Power Grids

by Paul Wagenseil / FOX News
Image taken by NASA's SOHO satellite on July 1, 2002
The severe geomagnetic storm bombarding the Earth on Thursday was expected to disrupt radio, television and cell-phone communications worldwide and could force airlines to reroute passenger flights that normally fly over the North Pole.
Power-grid operators will have to make sure their systems do not overload from induced current, and satellites in close Earth orbits will need to have their positions constantly monitored as the atmosphere expands from the additional heat and frictional drag increases.
"It's really hitting the Earth's magnetic field pretty hard," Joseph Kunches, lead forecaster at the NOAA Space Environment Center in Boulder, Colo., told "It's already affected HF [high-frequency] radio on the other side of the globe, as well as the astronauts aboard the ISS [international space station]." As Kunches spoke, the Space Environment Center's atmospheric magnetic sensors oscillated wildly, meaning that the charge of the particles hitting the planet swung drastically between positive and negative.
A large sunspot, dubbed number 930, ejected a major X-3 category solar flare late Tuesday, blanketing two astronauts at the end of a spacewalk with X-rays within minutes. A few hours later, a wave of accelerated protons hit the space station and attached space shuttle Discovery, but the astronauts were already sheltered behind protective bulkheads and airlocks. Earthbound organisms and electronics were in no danger from those initial waves, but at about 8:45 a.m. EST Thursday, about 36 hours after the initial flare, a slow-moving coronal mass ejectionbasically a strong solar-wind gust of subatomic particles plus a large magnetic field — began hitting the planet.
"It's not the worst-case scenario," Kunches explained. "It's not as bad as, say, the Halloween storm of 2003, but it will probably cause the auroras to move toward the Equator tonight, meaning that the northern lights may be visible from the continental United States. Airlines will also have to think about whether it's safe to fly the polar routes," he added. "They might have to consider flying at lower altitudes, or not flying over the poles at all."
The Earth's magnetic field is like a doughnut encircling the planet, and deflects most charged particles that arrive from space. However, since the "holes" of the doughnut plunge into the Earth at the north and south magnetic poles, a certain amount of space radiation penetrates the atmosphere deeply, even hitting the surface, at those locations.
Humans inside airplanes flying high over the magnetic poles are thus exposed to elevated levels of cosmic radiation even under normal space-weather conditions. During a severe geomagnetic storm, it might not be worth getting off the ground.
"There's still no one answer for what a 'safe' amount of radiation would be," Kunches said. He added that the technological implications of the storm were more clearly defined. "As the solar wind hits the atmosphere, it expands," he explained, "which increases the frictional drag on satellites traveling around the Earth. Ground-based operators will have to keep track of their positions, which will be further complicated by radio-signal interference from the storm." Regional electrical networks are at risk as well. "Induced current will enter power grids," said Kunches, "and operators will have to make sure their systems don't overload." Thanks to the terrestrial magnetosphere, the overall effect on biological organisms will be little. That wouldn't be the case, though, for astronauts staffing a future Moon base. "If, 20 years from now, the same sort of storm were to hit a Moon base," said Kunches, "the impact upon people there would be very much worse. They'd have no magnetic field to protect them."

Thursday, December 14, 2006

The Ten Most Important Security Trends of the Coming Year

Experts Predict the Future
The Ten Most Important Security Trends of the Coming Year

Mobile Devices
1. Laptop encryption will be made mandatory at many government agencies and other organizations that store customer/patient data and will be preinstalled on new equipment. Senior executives, concerned about potential public ridicule, will demand that sensitive mobile data be protected.

2. Theft of PDA smart phones will grow significantly. Both the value of the devices for resale and their content will draw large numbers of thieves.

Government Action
3. Congress and state governments will pass more legislation governing the protection of customer information. If Congress, as expected, reduces the state-imposed data breach notification requirements significantly, state attorneys general and state legislatures will find ways to enact harsh penalties for organizations that lose sensitive personal information.

Attack Targets
4. Targeted attacks will be more prevalent, in particular on government agencies. Targeted cyber attacks by nation states against US government systems over the past three years have been enormously successful, demonstrating the failure of federal cyber security activities. Other antagonistic nations and terrorist groups, aware of the vulnerabilities, will radically expand the number of attacks. Targeted attacks on commercial organizations will target military contractors and businesses with valuable customer information.

5. Cell phone worms will infect at least 100,000 phones, jumping from phone to phone over wireless data networks. Cell phones are becoming more powerful with full-featured operating systems and readily available software development environments. That makes them fertile territory for attackers fueled by cell-phone adware profitability.

6. Voice over IP (VoIP) systems will be the target of cyber attacks.
VoIP technology was deployed hastily without fully understanding security.

Attack Techniques
7. Spyware will continue to be a huge and growing issue. The spyware developers can make money so many ways that development and distribution centers will be developed throughout the developed and developing world.

8. Zero-day vulnerabilities will result in major outbreaks resulting in many thousands of PCs being infected worldwide. Security vulnerability researchers often exploit the holes they discover before they sell them to vendors or vulnerability buyers like TippingPoint.

9. The majority of bots will be bundled with rootkits. The rootkits will change the operating system to hide the attack's presence and make uninstalling the malware almost impossible without reinstalling a clean operating system.

Defensive Strategies
10. Network Access Control will become common and will grow in sophistication. As defending laptops becomes increasingly difficult, large organizations will try to protect their internal networks and users by testing computers that want to connect to the internal network. Tests will grow from today's simple configuration checks and virus signature validation to deeper analysis searching for traces of malicious code.

How these trends were determined
Twenty of the most respected leaders in cyber security developed this list. First each proposed the three developments that they each felt were most important. Then they compiled the list of more than 40 trends and voted on which were most likely to happen and which would have the greatest impact if they did happen. That resulted in a prioritized list. To validate their prioritization, they asked the 960 delegates at SANSFire in Washington to each prioritize the 40 trends. More than 340 did so. The SANSFire delegates' input reinforced the experts' prioritization and helped target the Top Ten.

Wednesday, December 13, 2006

NYT on iPod/iTunes Sales - Lies, Darn lies, and Statistics

Posted by Adrian Kingsley-Hughes

The other day the New York Times published a short article which attempted to draw some conclusions about iPod and iTunes sales based on a report published by Forrester Research. Instead of coming to any sensible conclusion, all the article did was highlight a total lack of statistical understanding at the NYT. I'll save you having to read the article (even though it's only about 150 words long) by summarizing it for you:

67.4 million iPods sold as of Sept 06, 22 songs sold for every iPod sold, therefore iPods sales are not driving iTunes sales.
The flawed logic here is clear - 67.4 million iPods sold does not equate to 67.4 million iPods still in use. Far from it. Over the last four years a huge number of iPods will have been lost, stolen, damaged or just plain broken. You could come to a similar flawed conclusion by looking at the numbers of cars sold since 2000 and the volume of gasoline sold. You come up with a number, but it's a meaningless one.
Another factor that the article failed to point out is that iPods are available in countries where the iTunes store is not available. This is going to skew the numbers by a fair amount. In addition, the article fails to address the fact that one family or household might own more and one iPod yet share a single iTunes account.
We must not forget too about the iPod user's existing music and media libraries too. People will have music they've ripped that they can transfer onto the iPod. MP3 players have been around for some time now. I ripped my entire CD collection to hard disk back in 1999 (between Christmas and the New Year - I remember it well!) and while I've bought and ripped CDs since then, my music library hasn't grown significantly since then (on the other hand, my library has grown about fifty-fold in that time). Bottom line is that iTunes was meant to drive iPod sales, not the other way around.
I think that the Apple iPod/iTunes model is an interesting one. While some people see through it and just see high-priced, DRMed, low-quality audio, others see it as a cheap, convenient way to buy the music they want. In that respect, iTunes is a handy service for some iPod owners. For those that regularly buy music from iTunes, they quickly hit a point where the value of the music library is greater than that of a new iPod and switching is not an option - Apple now has a customer for life.
The fact is that iTunes was never mean to supply all the music fodder that iPod owners wanted. It's crazy to think like that. Assuming that the average track is about 4MB, an 80GB iPod can hold 20,000 tracks, and at 99 cents each that means big bucks. Even a 2GB nano can hold about $495 worth of tunes.

Monday, December 11, 2006

Health Tip: Monitor Your Child's TV Watching

Too much time in front of the TV can lead to aggressive behavior and a tendency to engage in risky, unhealthy activities, the American Academy of Pediatrics says. Parents should set rules around TV watching, including limiting time to no more than one hour or two hours each day, and never while doing homework.
Carefully choose shows that your child is allowed to watch, and watch the shows with your child when you can. Try to avoid watching shows that may convey stereotypes or inappropriate messages for children, the AAP says. Also look for educational, appropriate videos made to help children learn, grow, and develop mentally.

Sunday, December 10, 2006

There is No Christmas without Christ

Article by Maria Mackay
Christmas; it’s that time of year when families get together, friends realise they really do love one another and suddenly that person you couldn’t stand in the office two weeks ago isn’t that bad after all. Christmas is a wonderful time of year for most people living in Britain regardless, very often, of ethnicity or religion, gender or age. But the carefree Christmas of the past, Christmas as a given, has come to face a rather unexpected challenge in recent years. The secularist campaign is merciless and its goal is clear: to obliterate Christ from Christmas. Just last month the Royal Mail released its Christmas stamp collection which was noticeably lacking a Christian theme. Meanwhile, a number of local councils and shops are putting up their lights and decorations to celebrate the dull, obscure, meaningless and ultimately pointless winterval.
As the secularist movement continues its drive to eradicate Christ from Christmas, Christians have to take a fresh look at why this is happening and what responsibility we have to take for this development. As regretful as this development is, it shows no sign of receding. So what can Christians do to restore Christmas to its rightful owner – Christ?
Firstly, as Christians we need to look at the way in which we are celebrating Christmas. Are we doing enough to reveal that a Christmas without Christ is so utterly unfulfilling in comparison to a Christmas spent with Christ? Is it clear to non-believers that Christ makes a difference? Has Christmas just become about Santa, a nice tree, some presents and a party to us as well? Is the development of Winterval not an honest reflection of what Christmas has already become – and what we have allowed it to become?
Or if not, does it remain the case that non-believers at least perceive our Christmas as nothing more out of the ordinary than this? Apostle Paul said, ‘Woe to me if I do not preach the gospel!’ But preaching is not the responsibility only of the one standing behind the pulpit. Preaching is something that any Christian can do – and without words too – as they live out the Word in their lives. Our testimony is so important to the way those outside the faith perceive us. We need to use our mouths to testify how great this time of year is not because we are seeing family whom we haven’t seen for a long time or because we are getting a few days extra holiday from work. Rather our words need to express a deeper joy that comes from celebrating the fact that God sent Christ as the light to save us from the darkness of this world, without which light we would be utterly lost.
And we need to be demonstrating that the birth of Christ makes a difference not only to our Christmas but also to our lives beyond Christmas. Non-believers need to be able to see that for us Christmas is only the start of our joy, not the end as it is for most people who don’t know Christ or the real meaning of Christmas. And this is where self-reflection is vital: for what reason am I as a Christian, a believer of Christ, celebrating Christmas? We know that Christ makes a difference; Christian converts really know that Christ makes an unbelievable difference. Now we need to make that known through our actions, our testimonies. This is a time when Christians have to revisit the command of Christ - to let our light shine in this world.
We have to consider again just how much we are really letting our light shine. Do non-believers see in us something different at Christmas or do they see Christians just going through the same rituals as they are; exchanging gifts, attending carol services. Are we making our joy evident to all? Non-believers need to know that a Christmas which is about little more than presents, parties, and good food does not bring deep and lasting spiritual fulfilment. Amos 8 says that the famine of this era is not simply a hunger for food or a thirst for water. Thankfully, most people in this country don’t need presents.
So what do they need?
To answer this we need to know what the true famine in this era is. The famine of this era is a hunger for true love – the love that only God can bring and that can only be realised through Christ. People are spiritually hungry and they are hungry for something that will not fill them up just momentarily but eternally. We need to reveal that when Christmas is spent rejoicing the birth of Christ, the Son of God, we get more than just presents; we get the deep spiritual fulfilment that cannot be bought in any shop or gift catalogue for any amount of money.
We can complain and protest to our local councils over this year’s winterval celebrations or anywhere else that we perceive Christ is being eradicated from the Christmas celebrations. That is also necessary. But there is something else we can do. When the Christian delivers his card to his non-churchgoing neighbour next door does he mention anything about what he is doing with his church this weekend to celebrate Christmas? Does he invite them along to come and see what his Christmas is all about? If they don’t know why they are even celebrating Christmas then it is the job of the Christians to tell them.
If secularists are intent on removing Christ from Christmas then there are two ways we can respond: we can either let ourselves feel pressed down or we can see what a wonderful opportunity this is to let the light of the gospel within us shine to all around us. What a wonderful opportunity we have to tell the world that they have it so wrong about Christmas. What a wonderful opportunity this is to tell the world that they are invited to the one banquet where the water turns to wine, and not the other way round.
Apostle Paul said, ‘If God is with us, who can be against us?’ This is the reassurance we have; this is the privilege of Christians. God is with us and Christmas belongs to God. When we celebrate Christmas we do not celebrate it on our own but God is with us – after all, it was the birth of His Son! So let’s do our part well as Christians and use the mouths God has given us to testify the true joy of Christianity and Christmas, to stand up for our Christmas, and let’s have more faith that God will take care of the rest. We may be persecuted but we are most definitely not abandoned by the Lord - and neither is Christmas.

Thursday, December 07, 2006

Technology History - Adobe

John Warnock and Charles Geschke left Xerox PARC in 1982 in order to further develop and commercialize their PostScript page description language. Their new company, called Adobe, was named for the Adobe Creek in nearby Mountain View, California. The company's first success was the use of PostScript in the Apple LaserWriter printer product, which played a significant role in the development of desktop publishing.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

Technology History - Radio Shack

On this day in 1921, brothers Theodore and Milton Deutschmann opened a one-store retail and mail order operation in downtown Boston. They chose the name Radio Shack, which is a term for the small, wooden structure that houses a ship's radio equipment. The Deutschmanns thought the name was appropriate for a store that would supply the needs of radio officers aboard ships, as well as ham radio operators.
The company issued its first catalog in the early 1940s and then entered the high-fidelity music market. In 1954, Radio Shack began selling its own private-label products under the brand name Realist, but was subsequently sued and consequently changed the brand name to Realistic. After expanding to nine stores plus an extensive mail-order business, the company fell on hard times in the 1960s.
Radio Shack was essentially bankrupt, but Charles Tandy saw the potential of Radio Shack and retail consumer electronics when hardly anyone else did and bought the company for $300,000. It was renamed Tandy Radio Shack. During the 1960s and 1970s, Radio Shack marketed its free battery card; a wallet-sized cardboard card, free, which entitled the bearer to free batteries when presented at one of their stores. The bearer was limited to one a month, although many customers would frequent several stores with several cards every month. These cards also served as generic business cards for the salespeople in the 1980s; the "battery club" card was still used until the company-wide changes in the early 1990s.
Its slogan since 1994 has been "You've got questions, we've got answers."

Some source info:

Saturday, December 02, 2006

Computer History - PayPal

Hedge fund manager Peter Thiel and Ukrainian engineer Max Levchin established PayPal in late 1998. The two created the company with the hopes of providing a secure software system that would allow electronic transfer of payments. Their company was originally backed by Nokia Ventures, Deutche Bank, and Goldman Sachs. Within a short period, PayPal had 1.5 million account holders generating $2 million of transactions per day. Online auction giant eBay eventually purchased PayPal.

From my personal perspective PayPal is NOT to be trusted. They are not governed by normal banking rules and seem to have NO ONE overseeing their actions. Read the THOU$ANDS of PayPal horror stories at, and Many message boards also have forums dedicated to the thievery and fraud that PayPal, Inc. is involved. BTW, I am a PayPal victim -- loosing nearly $4000.00 and the primary means of income for my side business due to their fraud and stealing of my money.

Friday, December 01, 2006

Scientists Decode Ancient Astral Computer

By Ian Sample in London
A MYSTERIOUS device salvaged from an ancient Roman shipwreck has astounded scientists who have finally unlocked its secrets. After a century of study, the 2100-year-old device, known as the Antikythera Mechanism, has been shown to be a complex and uncannily accurate astronomical computer. Recovered in 82 highly corroded fragments, it could predict the positions of the sun and planets, show the location of the moon and even forecast eclipses.
Experts believe it to be the earliest-known device to use gear wheels and by far the most sophisticated object to be found from the ancient and medieval periods. "This device is extraordinary, the only thing of its kind," said Mike Edmunds, a physicist at Cardiff University, in Wales. "The astronomy is exactly right … In terms of historic and scarcity value, I have to regard this mechanism as being more valuable than the Mona Lisa." It was lost among cargo in 65BC, when the ship carrying it sank in 42 metres of water off the Greek island of Antikythera.
In 1900 a sponge diver discovered the wreck. The device came to light when an archaeologist working on recovered objects noticed a lump of rock had a gear wheel embedded in it. Closer inspection of material brought up from the ship revealed gear wheels, dials, clock-like hands and a wooden and bronze casing bearing ancient Greek inscriptions.
Since its discovery, scientists have been trying to reconstruct the device. Using computer X-ray tomography, which makes images of selected layers, and high-resolution surface scanning, a team led by Professor Edmunds and Tony Freeth peered inside fragments of the crust-encased mechanism and read the faintest inscriptions that once covered its outer casing. Detailed imaging of the mechanism suggests it dates to between 150 and 100BC and had 37 gear wheels enabling it to follow the movements of the moon and the sun through the zodiac, predict eclipses and even re-create the irregular orbit of the moon.
The motion, known as the first lunar anomaly, was developed by the astronomer Hipparcus of Rhodes in the 2nd century BC, and he may have been consulted in the machine's construction, the scientists speculate. Remarkably, scans showed the device uses a differential gear, which was previously believed to have been invented in the 16th century. The level of miniaturisation and complexity of its parts is comparable to that of 18th-century clocks.
Some researchers believe the machine might have been among treasure looted from Rhodes that was en route to Rome for a celebration staged by Julius Caesar. One of the remaining mysteries is why the Greek technology invented for the machine seemed to disappear. No other civilisation is believed to have created anything as complex for another 1000 years.
Bronze was often recycled in the period the device was made, so many artefacts from that time were melted down and erased from the archaeological record. The fateful sinking of the ship carrying the Antikythera Mechanism may have inadvertently preserved it.