Monday, December 31, 2007

Technology History: 1982

Time magazine named the ComputerMan of the Year” in 1982. The magazine wrote, "Computers were once regarded as distant, ominous abstractions, like Big Brother. In 1982, they truly became personalized, brought down to scale, so that people could hold, prod and play with them."

Sunday, December 30, 2007

Record Industry Goes After Personal Use

Excerpt from
Despite more than 20,000 lawsuits filed against music fans in the years since they started finding free tunes online rather than buying CDs from record companies, the recording industry has utterly failed to halt the decline of the record album or the rise of digital music sharing. Still, hardly a month goes by without a news release from the industry's lobby, the Recording Industry Association of America, touting a new wave of letters to college students and others demanding a settlement payment and threatening a legal battle.

Now, in an unusual case in which an Arizona recipient of an RIAA letter has fought back in court rather than write a check to avoid hefty legal fees, the industry is taking its argument against music sharing one step further: In legal documents in its federal case against Jeffrey Howell, a Scottsdale, Ariz., man who kept a collection of about 2,000 music recordings on his personal computer, the industry maintains that it is illegal for someone who has legally purchased a CD to transfer that music into his computer. The industry's lawyer in the case, Ira Schwartz, argues in a brief filed earlier this month that the MP3 files Howell made on his computer from legally bought CDs are "unauthorized copies" of copyrighted recordings.

"I couldn't believe it when I read that," says Ray Beckerman, a New York lawyer who represents six clients who have been sued by the RIAA. "The basic principle in the law is that you have to distribute actual physical copies to be guilty of violating copyright. But recently, the industry has been going around saying that even a personal copy on your computer is a violation."

RIAA's hard-line position seems clear. Its Web site says: "If you make unauthorized copies of copyrighted music recordings, you're stealing. You're breaking the law and you could be held legally liable for thousands of dollars in damages."

Saturday, December 29, 2007

Some information from
Rosie O'Donnell is bothered by the fact that according to a new poll, almost 50% of Americans named her the most annoying person of 2007 - followed by Paris Hilton (24%), coming in a distant second. Ann Coulter (16%), Heather Mills McCartney (12%) and Perez Hilton (4%) round out the Top Five Most Annoying for 2007.

The former talk show host is so upset about her dubious distinction, that she's made this video about being dubbed most annoying.

Here's an excerpt of what she says: "I apparently am the most annoying celebrity, according to Parade magazine. And, frankly, most celebrities are annoying. So, I agree. Celebrities are annoying and the fact that I am one is annoying. And I suppose I am the most annoying. But whatever. Why? Cuz I'm loud. Some people don't like me. Barbra Streisand likes me!"
Perez Hilton (who is also very annoying) says: "Uhmmm, Barbra Streisand is annoying! It might help to name someone that likes you who is not annoying."

Thursday, December 27, 2007

Benazir Bhutto Has Been Assassinated!

Excerpt from
Pakistani opposition leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated Thursday, shot in the neck and chest before a homicide bomber blew himself up at a campaign rally. Twenty others also died. The assassin struck just minutes after Bhutto addressed a rally of thousands of supporters in the garrison city of Rawalpindi.

She was shot as she was entering her car. Her attacker then set off his bomb. Bhutto was rushed to the hospital and taken into emergency surgery. "At 6:16 p.m. she expired," said Wasif Ali Khan, a member of Bhutto's party who was at Rawalpindi General Hospital.

U.S. officials said they were looking into reports of Bhutto's death. "Certainly, we condemn the attack on this rally. It demonstrates that there are still those in Pakistan who want to subvert reconciliation and efforts to advance democracy," said deputy State Department spokesman Tom Casey.

Bhutto's death threw the campaign for the Jan. 8 election into chaos and created fears of mass protests and an eruption of violence across the volatile south Asian nation. The United States has for months been encouraging Musharraf to reach some kind of political accommodation with the opposition, particular Bhutto, who is seen as having a wide base of support here.

Bhutto served twice as Pakistan's prime minister between 1988 and 1996. She had returned to Pakistan from an eight-year exile on Oct. 18. Her homecoming parade in Karachi was also targeted by a suicide attacker, killing more than 140 people. On that occasion she narrowly escaped injury. [ released an excellent overview of Benazir Bhutto after the assassination today.]

The scene of the bombing Thursday was awash in blood. An Associated Press reporter could see body parts and flesh scattered at the back gate of the Liaquat Bagh Park where Bhutto had spoken. He counted about 20 bodies, including police, and could see many other wounded people. Party supporter Chaudry Mohammed Nazir said two gunshots rang out when Bhutto's vehicle pulled into the main street and then there was a huge blast next to her car.

ADDED LINK 16:36 ET: Getty Images Photog, John Moore, took last known photos of opposition leader before death.

Thursday, December 06, 2007

New Exploit Targets Internet Explorer

Article by Jabulani Leffall
One week before the last Patch Tuesday of 2007 and two weeks after a researcher in New Zealand discovered holes in Microsoft's Web Proxy Automatic Discovery (WPAD) program, Redmond this week issued its latest in a long line of security advisories. Tim Rains of Microsoft's Security Response Center wrote in a blog post on Monday that Windows XP SP2, Windows Server 2003 SPs 1 and 2 and Windows Vista are all vulnerable to WPAD server manipulation.
This vulnerability also affects all supported versions of Internet Explorer, a browser which most commonly uses the WPAD function to locate an automatically configured proxy file to determine settings on offsite servers and by extension affecting Internet traffic flow through server indentification and authentication.
Potential vulnerabilities first came to light around Thanksgiving weekend when Redmond's software engineers responded to the results of a presentation made by Beau Butler, a New Zealander and self-described "ethical" hacker. Butler's work revealed that a hacker can use WPAD files to intercept and manipulate all Internet traffic on a given network. Butler said 160,000 computers in New Zealand alone could be seized with just one attack.

Media reports have claimed that U.S. computers are not vulnerable to the attack. However, it appears Microsoft isn't taking any chances, as the software giant said it released the security advisory as it investigates "new public reports of a vulnerability in the way Windows resolves hostnames that do not include a fully-qualified domain name." Thus an issue that was supposed to have been resolved in 2005 has become a 2007 fix as the minute technical overhaul made back then only addressed the ".com" domain name, and not other suffixes such as ".org," ".tv," and non-U.S. country tags -- in the case of the hacker's findings, "nz."

This week, Microsoft added a new specification to the vulnerability profile stating that "Customers whose domain name begins in a third-level or deeper domain, such as "," are at risk. Conversely, among those not at risk are IT shops where a manually specified proxy server is in place for IE. Additionally, those who have disabled the "Automatically Detect Settings" command in IE can also work around the issue.

Jabulani Leffall is an award-winning journalist whose work has appeared in the Financial Times of London, Investor's Business Daily, The Economist and CFO Magazine, among others.

Friday, October 19, 2007

Junk Science: Hey Al Gore, We Want a Refund!

A British judge ruled on the eve of Al Gore co-winning the Nobel Peace Prize that students forced to watch "An Inconvenient Truth" must be warned of the film’s factual errors. But would there be any science at all left in Gore’s "truth" if these errors and their progeny were excised?
Minutes of non-science filler dominate the opening sequence — images of the Gore farm, Earth from space, Gore giving his slideshow and the 2000 election controversy. Gore then links Hurricane Katrina with global warming. But the judge ruled that was erroneous, so the Katrina scenes would wind up on the cutting-room floor. Another 12 minutes of filler go by — images of Gore in his limo, more Earth photos, a Mark Twain quote, and Gore memories — until about the 16:30 minute mark, when, according to the judge, Al Gore erroneously links receding glaciers — specifically Mt. Kilimanjaro — with global warming. The Mt. Kilimanjaro error commences an almost 10-minute stretch of problematic footage, the bulk of which contains Gore’s presentation of the crucial issue in the global warming controversy — whether increasing levels of atmospheric carbon dioxide drive global temperatures higher. As the judge ruled that the Antarctic ice core data presented in the film "do not establish what Mr. Gore asserts," this inconvenient untruth also needs to go.
[Note to readers: A video debate between Al Gore and climatologists on this point produced by me can be viewed by clicking here.]
After Gore lectures viewers on how global warming is a "moral issue" and how he came to realize this as a result of his son’s 1989 car accident, the next five or so minutes of film would seem to violate the judge’s concern about the film linking specific weather events with global warming. During this clip, Gore again spotlights Hurricane Katrina and other discrete weather events, including how 2005 was the hottest year on record (more on that later).
After still more filler footage about Winston Churchill, the 2000 election, and rising insurance claims from natural disasters, Gore spends about 35 seconds on how the drying of Lake Chad is due to global warming. The judge ruled that this claim wasn’t supported by the scientific evidence.
More filler leads to a 30-second clip about how global warming is causing polar bears to drown because they have to swim greater distances to find sea ice on which to rest. The judge ruled however, that the polar bears in question had actually drowned because of a particularly violent storm. On the heels of that error, Gore launches into a 3-minute "explanation" of how global warming will shut down the Gulf Stream and send Europe into an ice age. The judge ruled that this was an impossibility.
Two minutes of ominous footage — casting Presidents Reagan and George H.W. Bush, and Sen. James Inhofe (R-OK) in a creepy light and expressing Gore’s frustration with getting his alarmist message out — precede a more-than-9-minute stretch that would need to be cut. In this lengthy footage, Gore again tries to link global warming with discrete events including coral reef bleaching, the melting of Greenland, catastrophic sea level rise, Antarctic melting and more. But like Hurricane Katrina, these events also shouldn’t be linked with global warming.
Based on the judge’s ruling, the footage that ought to be excised adds up to about 25 minutes or so out of the 98-minute film. What’s left is largely Gore personal drama and cinematic fluff that has nothing to do with the science of climate change. It should also be pointed out that Gore makes other notable factual misstatements in the film that don’t help his or his film’s credibility. He says in the film that polio has been "cured," implying that we can cure "global warming." While a preventative polio vaccine does exist, there is no "cure" for polio.
Gore attempts to smear his critics by likening them to the tobacco industry. In spotlighting a magazine advertisement proclaiming that "more doctors smoke Camel than any other brand," he states that the ad was published after the Surgeon General’s 1964 report on smoking and lung cancer. But the ad is actually from 1947 — 17 years before the report. Gore also says in the film that 2005 is the hottest year on record. But NASA data actually show that 1934 was the hottest year on record in the U.S. — 2005 is not even in the top 10.
Perhaps worse than the film’s errors is their origin. The BBC reported that Gore knew the film presented incorrect information but took no corrective steps because he didn’t want to spotlight any uncertainties in the scientific data that may fuel opponents of global warming alarmism.
"An Inconvenient Truth" grossed about $50 million at the box office and millions more in DVD and book sales. Gore charges as much as $175,000 for an in-person presentation of his slide show that forms the basis for the film. Considering that a key 25 percent of "An Inconvenient Truth" is not true — and perhaps intentionally so — it seems only fair that Gore offer a refund to moviegoers, DVD/book purchasers and speaking sponsors. Where are the class action lawyers when you need them?

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

Friday, September 28, 2007

How to Put an End to Microsoft's Sneaky "Silent Updates"

The following is an excerpt from Scott Dunn's informative September 20th article in Windows Secrets Newsletter on how to keep Microsoft from installing silent updates without your permission...

If you're an individual or a small business using Windows Update (or its enhanced sibling, Microsoft Update), you may be concerned about Microsoft installing patches before you've had a chance to research their reliability. In that case, you can completely turn off the Automatic Updates Agent, thereby preventing updates or even notifications from occurring. If you take this step, you'll become solely responsible for learning about new Microsoft patches yourself. I'll explain below how to adapt to this situation. In the meantime, here's how to turn off Automatic Updates and prevent stealth installs:

In Windows XP, take these steps:
Step 1. Open Control Panel and launch Automatic Updates (in the Security Center
Step 2. Select Turn off Automatic Updates. Click OK.

In Windows Vista, take these steps:
Step 1. Open Control Panel and launch Windows Update (in the System and Maintenance category).
Step 2. In the left pane, click Change settings.
Step 3. Click Never check for updates (not recommended). Click OK.
Step 4. Click Continue, if prompted by User Account Control.

With Automatic Updates turned off, Windows Update will still update itself (and notify you of patches), but only when you manually launch Windows Update and give your consent.

What to do about repeated boot-up warnings:
Turning off Automatic Updates can cause Windows Security Alert pop-up balloons to appear in the taskbar tray every time you log on. (See Figure 1.)

Automatic Updates off
Figure 1. Turning off Automatic Updates causes scary
error balloons featuring a red shield.

If this bothers you, Windows XP allows you to suppress any warnings that relate to Automatic Updates. You can also do this in Vista but, unfortunately, the newer OS forces you to turn off all security alerts just to suppress the Automatic Updates warnings.

To eliminate the warning balloons about Automatic Updates in both XP and Vista, take these steps:
Step 1. Double-click the red shield icon in the taskbar, or open the Control Panel and launch the Security Center.
Step 2. In the left pane or box, click Change the way Security Center alerts me.
Step 3-XP. In XP, uncheck Automatic Updates and click OK.
Step 3-Vista. In Vista, select the second or third option.

Use Secunia's Software Inspector to check for updates:
With the Windows Update Agent turned off, how will you know if you have the latest security patches and updates you need?
First, read the Windows Secrets Newsletter that comes out two days after Patch Tuesday. Look in their paid section for descriptions of any patches that are reported to have negative side-effects, and use their recommended workarounds if any problems might affect you. Then, to check for needed updates to Windows and dozens of other programs, use the Secunia Software Inspector. This is a free service.

Once you know what updates you need, you can visit the Microsoft Update Web site, which offers updates for both Windows and Microsoft Office. The Secunia report includes a link to Microsoft's site and other update sites so you don't even have to bookmark them. Download and install the necessary patches. Reboot your PC and you should be good to go -- without the sneaky, underhanded, stealth "updates" Microsoft is trying to force on computer users.

Thursday, September 27, 2007


Microsoft continues to get itself into trouble with "stealth" or silent updates. The first round of silent updates was reported September 13th. This time, the issue is over a silent update the company broadly distributed in July and August that's apparently restraining Windows XP's repair feature from fully carrying out its task.
According to this week's Windows Secrets Newsletter, since the silent download of new support files for Windows Update, the Windows XP repair function is unable to install the last 80 patches from Microsoft.

Apparently, the trouble surfaces when users reinstall Windows XP's system files using the repair capability contained on the XP CD. At this point, the repair option, which is mostly used when XP becomes unbootable, rolls "many aspects" of XP back to a pristine state. In the process, it blows away many updates and patches and kicks Internet Explorer back to the version that originally shipped with the OS.
Typically, users who repair XP can simply download and install the latest updates, using either Automatic Updates control panel or going to Microsoft's Windows Update site. But once you run the repair option from the CD, Automatic Updates defaults to "on" and the new 7.0.600.381 executables are automatically downloaded and installed. According to the report, these new executables will not register themselves with the OS, thereby preventing Windows Update from working. This then prevents the 80 updates from being installed.

While everyday users rarely attempt a repair install, the flaw figures to be a constant irritant to a lot of admins who frequently have to repair Windows. However, the report states that if Windows Update refuses to install patches, admins can register the missing DLLs by manually entering the necessary commands at the command prompt.

Sunday, September 09, 2007

Pentagon Amateur Radio Club to Host Special Event Station Commemorating 9/11

From the ARRL website - On Sunday, September 9, the Pentagon Amateur Radio Club (PARC) will operate a Special Event station commemorating the 6th anniversary of the attacks that occurred on the Pentagon, the World Trade Center and over Pennsylvania in 2001.

They will be operating on 10, 15, 20, 40 and 80 meters, both phone and CW where and when possible, with plans to operate on a 12 hour basis (1200-2400 UTC). There will be a special QSL card available for stations that work K4AF.

For more information, please contact Claude Hennessey, KG4TVN. QSL via
PO Box 2322
Arlington, VA 22202
In addition, club members will operate from the station on Tuesday, September 11 as part of the commemoration. -- Thanks Jeffery W. Wilson, AI4IO

Wednesday, September 05, 2007

Motorola Begins Selling RAZR 2

By BetaNews Staff, BetaNews
While the now $399 Apple iPhone will dominate the news Thursday, Motorola has chimed in to remind everyone that its RAZR2 is now available through wireless carriers across the United States. But its $299 to $349 price tag won't likely bring out long lines.

The is offered by AT&T while the CDMA V9m is sold by Verizon, Sprint and Alltel. T-Mobile will likely sell the Motorola RAZR2 V9m, but the phone is not yet listed on the carrier's website. Motorola is hoping to bring back the glory days of the original RAZR by adding features such as Windows Media Player, 2GB of on-board memory and a full-HTML browser. But the company faces stiff competition from LG, Samsung and now Apple.

EDITORIAL: Manufacturers need to remember that phones need to be PHONES first. While MP3, cameras, etc. are nice, we need to be able to receive and make calls as the first order of business. Otherwise, we DO NOT need their phones! After all, Apple makes a better MP3 player. Nikon & Canon make better cameras. Most everyone has TiVO, DVR or some way of watching videos on demand. BUT, we need a phone to make calls -- and that is the bottom line. Moto, Samsung, LG and the like need to work on xmt/rec and call quality, NOT all this other junk.

Tuesday, September 04, 2007

Rock 'N' Roll: Sex, Drugs and an Early Exit

Article from HealthDay News
From Elvis Presley to Jimi Hendrix, from Janis Joplin to Kurt Cobain, rock and pop stars are more than twice as likely to die early compared with the general population, British researchers report. What's more, pop stars often die within a few years of achieving fame, often due to drug and alcohol abuse. But it's their role as icons that worries the researchers behind the report that appears in the September issue of the Journal of Epidemiology and Community Health.

"People should understand the type of lifestyle that many of these performers live," said study author Mark Bellis, director of the Centre for Public Health at Liverpool John Moores University. "In addition, the music industry should consider not just the short-term health of popular rock stars, but also the longer term health even as they disappear later into obscurity." Part of the problem is living with the stress of fame, Bellis said. "Also, living in an environment of money and fame, which protects people from some of the consequences, which would make members of the general public give up drugs," he said. "Generally," he added, "affluence enhances people's lifestyles and prolongs life, whereas in this particular case the exposure to fame and what comes with it is associated with a mortality which is higher than that in the general population."


Thursday, August 30, 2007

Don't Trust Experts Forecasts, Studys Says

Article from Science Daily
A study about predicting the outcome of actual conflicts found that the forecasts of experts who use their unaided judgment are little better than those of novices, according to a new study in a publication of the Institute for Operations Research and the Management Sciences.

When presented with actual crises, such as a disguised version of a 1970s border dispute between Iraq and Syria and an unfolding dispute between football players and management, experts were able to forecast the decisions the parties made in only 32% of the cases, little better than the 29% scored by undergraduate students. Chance guesses at the outcomes would be right 28% of the time. The research can have serious consequences for foreign policy and business. Green says, “Political leaders in the West are pondering how best to deal with the threat of the Iranian government’s nuclear ambitions. Forecasting problems such as this are the stuff of not only international relations but also of takeover battles, commercial competition, and labor-management disputes. In most cases, experts use their judgment to predict what will happen."

How good are their forecasts?The short answer is that they are of little value in terms of accuracy. In addition, they lead people into false confidence.


Wednesday, August 29, 2007

Amateur Radio: Upcoming Meteor Shower Can Be Boon for VHFers

VHFers, particularly those interested in meteor scatter, should be on the alert Saturday morning, September 1, for what could be a rare opportunity of excellent propagation. At 1137 UTC (4:37 PDT), the Earth's orbit will cross through the dust trail of long-period comet C/1911 N1 (Kiess), which is expected to provide a short but active two hour outburst of bright (-2 to +3 magnitude) meteors radiating from the constellation Auriga. Predicted rates for this particular Aurigids vary from around 100 meteors per hour to up to 1000. If high rates are achieved, the meteors could provide "open-band" conditions during the peak times. It might certainly be worth a look on 2 meters (or higher) during the hour leading up to the peak and through the peak time period. The meteor radiant is ideally placed for North Americans, so the more stations that are active, the more people can take advantage of what might possibly happen in the sky on Saturday morning. If conditions turn out to be excellent, the best mode for information exchange will be on SSB, keeping calls and transmissions very short and exchanging minimal information, such as signal reports or grids. As usual, the best frequency on 2 meters will likely be 144.200 MHz, with stations spreading out from there if conditions warrant.

More information on this rare event can be found here (photo above borrowed from this link).
Reprinted information provided by Steve McDonald, VE7SL

Monday, August 27, 2007

Technology History: The World's First MP3 Player

The world's first MP3 player wasn't introduced to the public by Apple (nope, not the iPod). It wasn't offered by Creative Labs (not the Zen either). The first MP3 player wasn't even a Diamond Corporation product (can anyone say Rio?). The world premiere of the MP3 was from a now defunct company named Eiger Labs.
Eiger Labs brought the world's first MP3 player to the masses during the summer of 1998 -- for a mere $165. The 32Mb portable held up to 32 minutes of near CD-quality audio or approximately 64 minutes of FM stereo-quality audio.
The player, dubbed the MPMan F10, was very basic and not user expandable, though owners could upgrade the memory to 64Mb by sending the player back to Eiger Labs. One article described the Eiger MPMan player as: "It’s probably easiest to describe it as the next generation of Sony Walkman. It’s probably just as Revolutionary as the very first Walkman if not more, because it represents the beginning of a new era in Digital Audio." [random capitalization copyright the original author]

Tuesday, August 07, 2007

MCPMag POLL: Upgrade to Microsoft Vista or wait for "Windows 7"?

The Question: Will you upgrade to Microsoft Vista or wait for "Windows 7"?

I'll stick with XP as long as I can. (50.5%)
I've already upgraded to Vista. (21.3%)
I'll eventually upgrade to Vista. (16.0%)
Skipping Vista and going straight to Windows 7. (6.9%)
I've already moved on to a non-MS OS. (4.8%)
Not even considering Windows 7. (0.5%)

The total number of votes was just shy of 200, but the outcome was a little surprising. According to Microsoft PR (propaganda reports), Vista is selling like hotcakes. The telling part of this poll is that the majority of MCP Mag readers are Microsoft Certified Professionals. Hmm, even those certified in MS technologies and software are not clamoring for Vista. The majority are holding on to Microsoft Windows XP Professional"as long as they can". This makes me wonder about the truth in Microsoft claims of more than one million copies of Vista being sold.

As an MCP (and CompTIA A+) certified tech myself, I tend to agree with the majority of poll respondents. I am holding out for Vista's Service Pack 1 release before considering an upgrade. Along with SP1, the price will need to drop a bit before Vista will become part of my budget. BTW, the only choice worth making (IMO) regarding Windows Vista is Premium Edition. All the others are lesser versions.

Wednesday, July 18, 2007

Technology History: Intel Corporation

Intel was founded on July 18, 1968 by former Fairchild Semiconductor Company engineers Bob Noyce and Gordon Moore. The name Intel is a shortened version of "Integrated Electronics." The company's first money making product was the 3101 Schottky bipolar 64-bit static random access memory (SRAM) chip.

Tuesday, July 10, 2007

Spammers Automatically Creating Hotmail And Yahoo Accounts

BitDefender researchers found that spammers are easily bypassing the captcha system, to automatically set up new e-mail accounts to use to send out waves of spam.

By Sharon Gaudin, InformationWeek
Spammers have a new trick up their sleeves. According to researchers at BitDefender Labs, spammers are automatically creating Yahoo and Hotmail accounts, and using a Trojan to help them send waves of spam. The spammers, according to the security company, have figured out how to outwit the "captcha" security system. That's the one which won't allow a new e-mail account to be created until the creator correctly types in the twisted letters depicted in an image.
A piece of malware, Trojan.Spammer.HotLan.A, actually has been set up to access the e-mail accounts, pull down encrypted e-mails from another site, unencrypt them, and then send them to e-mail addresses stored in yet another Web site. "They've found a way to bypass the captcha system by using optical character recognition," said Vitor Souza, a manager at BitDefender, in an interview. "The software reads the images and transforms it into text. Once it bypasses the captcha system, it enables them to automatically creates the e-mail accounts." Souza said the automatic system creates accounts extremely quickly. "It's beyond what we've ever seen before," he said, adding that it can create 500 new e-mail accounts every hour and up to 15,000 a day.
"With this kind of speed, they can send spam from thousands of different accounts and that's a lot more resources for them," he added. "[Companies] have to look at this new threat," said Souza. "The captcha system has become a norm in the industry for setting up e-mails and different kinds of accounts. Responsible companies, like Yahoo and Hotmail, will have to find a way to fight this through more sophisticated security systems or they're going to have to find a new system all together." The spam is set up to currently lure unsuspecting users to a site that advertises pharmacy products, BitDefender researchers said.

Wednesday, June 20, 2007

Locking Down Laptops Before It's Too Late

Article by Bill Watkins / CNet News
Confidential, invaluable business and personal data are at risk when laptop computers are misplaced or stolen. Companies large and small, public and private, are all at risk.

Within the past year, the Veterans Administration lost a laptop holding information on 26.5 million individuals, the Internal Revenue Service (IRS) lost or misplaced 500 laptops, and Boeing reported the theft of a laptop with files that contained Social Security numbers for more than 300,000 of its past and present employees. Unfortunately these incidents are far from unusual. During 2005, 20 percent of all banks, 18 percent of credit card companies, 13 percent of government organizations and 9 percent of health care companies reported data breaches--and that number is growing.

The real and associated costs of data breaches are staggering: In 2006, corporations that experienced a data breach spent an average of $5 million trying to recover data. Customer relationships suffer, too; among consumers that discovered their data had been lost, 20 percent terminated their relationships with the company, another 40 percent considered terminating their relationships, and 5 percent considered legal action. Clearly, something must be done before one of these breaches bankrupts a company or threatens national security.

The government has begun to address the issue with recently enacted legislation. Federal laws such as the Gramm-Leach-Bliley Act and the Health Insurance Portability and Accountability Act (HIPAA) make the security of critical digital content--including the secure disposal of electronic files to end the data lifecycle--a fundamental requirement. On a state by state basis, 29 states thus far have enacted data protection legislation and 28 of these laws have provisions calling for the encryption of digital content. The flaw with current legislation is that it does not specify how to encrypt data--and that's critical. If agencies and companies encrypt their data using software, it's like locking individual car engine components–-time-consuming, expensive and fraught with failure points.

By contrast, hard drive full disc encryption is similar to a car key: it protects everything from the engine to the dashboard with a single mechanism and point of entry. Hard drive full disc encryption is straightforward; it automatically protects every bit of computer data without any human intervention. It makes any data stored on a stolen or lost notebook unreadable and unusable forever. It can also automatically "repurpose" existing laptops or deny access to data when computers reach the end of their useful life. No need to smash a drive with a hammer or use special software to wipe it clean. By simply changing the encryption key on the disc, all stored data is instantaneously rendered unreadable and unusable forever--saving both time and money.

The advantages of hard drive full disc encryption are clear; the dangers of stolen and misplaced laptops are overwhelming. To thoroughly protect sensitive information, government and business organizations must mandate hard drive full disc encryption--especially for mobile workers--to help keep data from falling into the wrong hands. The time to lock laptops down is now.

Tuesday, June 19, 2007

Technology History: The FCC

The United States Federal Communications Commission was created by an act of Congress on June 19, 1934. A month later, seven commissioners and 233 federal employees began the task of merging rules and procedures from the Federal Radio Commission, the Interstate Commerce Commission and the Postmaster General into one agency. Today, the agency employs approximately 1,900 people and has extensive oversight responsibilities in new communications technologies such as satellite, microwave, and private radio communications.

Saturday, June 16, 2007

Encyclopedia Of DNA: New Findings Challenge Established Views On Human Genome

Article from
An international research consortium just published a set of papers that promise to reshape our understanding of how the human genome functions. The findings challenge the traditional view of our genetic blueprint as a tidy collection of independent genes, pointing instead to a complex network in which genes, along with regulatory elements and other types of DNA sequences that do not code for proteins, interact in overlapping ways not yet fully understood.

DNA double helix. (Credit: National Human Genome Research Institute)

In a group paper published in the June 14 issue of Nature and in 28 companion papers published in the June issue of Genome Research, the ENCyclopedia Of DNA Elements (ENCODE) consortium, which is organized by the National Human Genome Research Institute (NHGRI), part of the National Institutes of Health (NIH), reported results of its exhaustive, four-year effort to build a parts list of all biologically functional elements in 1 percent of the human genome. Carried out by 35 groups from 80 organizations around the world, the research served as a pilot to test the feasibility of a full-scale initiative to produce a comprehensive catalog of all components of the human genome crucial for biological function.

"This impressive effort has uncovered many exciting surprises and blazed the way for future efforts to explore the functional landscape of the entire human genome," said NHGRI Director Francis S. Collins, M.D., Ph.D. "Because of the hard work and keen insights of the ENCODE consortium, the scientific community will need to rethink some long-held views about what genes are and what they do, as well as how the genome's functional elements have evolved. This could have significant implications for efforts to identify the DNA sequences involved in many human diseases."

The completion of the Human Genome Project in April 2003 was a major achievement, but the sequencing of the genome marked just the first step toward the goal of using such information to diagnose, treat and prevent disease. Having the human genome sequence is similar to having all the pages of an instruction manual needed to make the human body. Researchers still must learn how to read the manual's language so they can identify every part and understand how the parts work together to contribute to health and disease.

In recent years, researchers have made major strides in using DNA sequence data to identify genes, which are traditionally defined as the parts of the genome that code for proteins. The protein-coding component of these genes makes up just a small fraction of the human genome -- 1.5 percent to 2 percent. Evidence exists that other parts of the genome also have important functions.

However, until now, most studies have concentrated on functional elements associated with specific genes and have not provided insights about functional elements throughout the genome. The ENCODE project represents the first systematic effort to determine where all types of functional elements are located and how they are organized.

In the pilot phase, ENCODE researchers devised and tested high-throughput approaches for identifying functional elements in the genome. Those elements included genes that code for proteins; genes that do not code for proteins; regulatory elements that control the transcription of genes; and elements that maintain the structure of chromosomes and mediate the dynamics of their replication.


Thursday, June 14, 2007

Fed's 'Operation Bot Roast' Reveals 1 Million Victims

As the FBI and the DOJ investigated botnet operators, they began amassing a list of the alleged botnet victims -- with most of them here in the U.S.

Article by Sharon Gaudin, InformationWeek
In the Department of Justice and the FBI's attack on 'botherders', the government has identified more than one million botnet victims. The agencies announced Wednesday the results of an ongoing cybercrime initiative to disrupt and dismantle botherders, a term used for the people creating and operating an increasing number of botnets around the world. The FBI reported in an online advisory that its agents are working with the U.S.-CERT Coordination Center at Carnegie Mellon University to notify the owners of the compromised computers.

Government investigators tracked down the million victims while working on five different cybercrime cases, according to Richard Kolko, a special agent with the FBI. Charges already have been handed down in three of those cases. James C. Brewer of Arlington, Texas, is charged with operating a botnet that infected Chicago area hospitals. His botnet allegedly infected tens of thousands of computers worldwide. The government charged Jason Michael Downey of Covington, Kentucky, with using botnets to launch denial-of-service attacks. Robert Alan Soloway of Seattle was also charged this month with using a large botnet network to spam tens of millions of messages to advertise his Web site.

Kolko told InformationWeek that as agents delved into these three cases, along with two others that are under investigation, they uncovered the botnet victims. "There are hundreds of cybercrime cases at any given time but we put the botnet cases together for this initiative," he said. "We're trying to get people to take care of their computers. They're unaware participants in this criminal activity. We need them to take the proper precautions so we can put a dent in this crime." He also said most of the one million victims they found are in the United States. The government, he added, will continue to try to find more victims so they can notify them and get the compromised machines cleaned up.

Hackers and malware writers conspire to infect computers around the world with viruses and Trojans that allow them to remotely control the victim machines. Then, they amass thousands or hundreds of thousands of these zombie computers, creating great armies -- or botnets -- of them. In recent months, botnets have been increasing in number and in size, as they launch massive waves of spam, malware and even denial-of-service attacks. Most of the owners of the zombie machines don't even know they have been infected or that their machine is being controlled by someone else.

According to the FBI's advisory, because of their widely distributed capabilities, the government considers botnets a growing threat to national security, the national information infrastructure, and the economy. "They were a problem and they're emerging as a greater problem as people use them to get around security measures and cause greater damages," said Assistant U.S. Attorney Erez Liebermann, chief of the computer hacking and intellectual property unit in New Jersey. "The fact that they can do so much damage with the press of a button is a huge problem." A large number of the botnets are controlled by hackers and botherders outside of the U.S., with a growing number being set up in China. Dealing with cybercriminals outside the country's borders has been an issue -- but it's one the U.S. government is working on.

"Generally speaking, international aspects of these cases do have extra hurdles, but more and more countries are cooperating," said Liebermann. "There are efforts to get [cooperation] from China, and they're paying off." In recent months, rival online gangs have even begun a virtual turf war for bragging rights to the largest botnets. Two or three online criminal gangs have been waging an all-out battle for control of the largest botnets, sending out waves of malware aimed at stealing zombie computers from rival gangs to build up their own army. Each online gang is trying to build up the biggest botnet because the bigger the army of infected computers they control, the more money spammers and hackers will pay to use them, said Shane Coursen, a senior technical consultant forKaspersky Lab, in a previous interview.

Wednesday, June 13, 2007

Infanticide, Abortion Responsible for 60 Million Girls Missing in Asia

Article by Sherry Karabin
There is a little-known battle for survival going in some parts of the world. Those at risk are baby girls, and the casualties are in the millions each year. The weapons being used against them are prenatal sex selection, abortion and female infanticide — the systematic killing of girls soon after they are born.
According to a recent United Nations Population Fund (UNFPA) State of the World Population Report, these practices, combined with neglect, have resulted in at least 60 million "missing" girls in Asia, creating gender imbalances and other serious problems that experts say will have far reaching consequences for years to come. "Twenty-five million men in China currently can’t find brides because there is a shortage of women," said Steven Mosher, president of the Population Research Institute in Washington, D.C. "The young men emigrate overseas to find brides."
The imbalances are also giving rise to a commercial sex trade; the 2005 report states that up to 800,000 people being trafficked across borders each year, and as many as 80 percent are women and girls, most of whom are exploited. "Women are trafficked from North Korea, Burma and Vietnam and sold into sexual slavery or to the highest bidder," Mosher said.

State-Sanctioned Infanticide?
Mosher, the first American social scientist allowed into China, puts much of the blame on Beijing's one-child policy, which took effect in 1979. The policy encourages late marrying and late childbearing, and it limits the majority of urban couples to having one child and most of those living in rural areas to two. Female infanticide was the result, he said. "Historically infanticide was something that was practiced in poor places in China," Mosher said. "But when the one-child policy came into effect we began to see in the wealthy areas of China, what had never been done before in history — the killing of little girls."

In recent years, female infanticide has taken a back seat to sex-selective abortion or female feticide, due to the advent of amniocentesis and ultrasound technology as well as other prenatal sex selection techniques, many of which are now readily available in clinics and doctors’ offices. "We feel it's a serious problem that everybody should be concerned about and aware of," said Wanda Franz, president of the National Right to Life Committee. "This is a form of abortion that, from our point of view is especially egregious. Abortion is claimed to help women; obviously in these cases, females are the direct victims, because women in these cultures are not valued. In our family we adopted a Chinese baby," she continued. "There have been thousands and thousands of them adopted since China’s one-child policy created this overabundance of baby girls in orphanages."

How bad are the imbalances between males and females in Asia? Generally, the normal sex ratio at birth (SRB) is between 103 and 105 males per 100 females, and in rare cases 106 or a bit more than that. Countries that are known to have or have had higher sex ratio at birth numbers include South Korea, which peaked at 115 in 1994, Singapore where the SRB registered 109 in 1984 and China, which has seen the numbers increase over the past two decades. Published reports in China show the gender ratio for newborns in 2005 was 118 boys for every 100 girls, and in some southern regions like Guangdong and Hainan, the number has reached 130 boys for every 100 girls. The 2000 Chinese census put the average sex ratio at 117, with Tibet having the lowest number at 103 and Hainan registering the highest at 136.

Nicholas Eberstadt
, a researcher at the American Enterprise Institute for Public Policy Research in Washington, D.C., attributes the large sex-ratio imbalances in places like China to a combination of factors: an enormous and enduring preference for boys reinforced by the low socioeconomic status accorded to women; the use of rapidly spreading prenatal sex determination technology for gender-based abortion; and the rapid drop in fertility in different populations, making the outcome of each birth even more important. "The one-child policy intensifies this problem, but if that policy stops and fertility levels stay at one or two, the problem won’t entirely go away," Eberstadt said. "When the average number is down to one or two, there is an incentive for parents to meddle with the outcome. In places where fertility levels are high, there are few signs of sex selection." In his presentation before the World Youth Alliance in New York City last April, Eberstadt warned that "The Global War Against Baby Girls" is expanding. "There are gender imbalances in almost every East Asian country, but Japan," said Eberstadt, who has also noted alarming irregularities in Western Asia in places like Cyprus, Qatar and Pakistan, as well as in some countries on the African continent, including Egypt, Libya and Tunisia.

Indian Girls Bear Dowry Burden
In India, where the child sex ratio is calculated as the number of girls per 1,000 boys in the 0-6 years age group, the problem is severe. The 2001 Census shows there are only 927 girls per 1,000 boys, representing a sharp decline from 1961 when that number was 976. In certain parts of the country there are now fewer than 800 girls for every 1,000 boys. "India is a very mixed bag," Eberstadt said. "In some parts there are no signs of any unnatural imbalances; in other parts the numbers are grotesque." For instance, 2001 census reports show that Punjab and Haryana reported fewer than 900 girls per 1,000 boys. "The problem is more prevalent in the northern and western states, where prosperity, rapid fertility decline and patriarchal (male heads the family) mindsets combine to put girls at risk," said Ena Singh, the assistant representative at UNFPA.

Like China, there is a strong son preference for various socio-economic reasons, such as the son being responsible for carrying on the family name and support in old age. Furthermore, in some sections of India it is believed that only sons can perform the last rites for parents. In addition to sharing a strong son preference, both India and China lack a national social-security system. As it is assumed that a daughter will become a part of her husband’s family, parents must rely on their sons to take care of them. Since the 1970s, India’s government has promoted a two-child family as "ideal." While no formal laws exist, the general fertility decline in the country has led to smaller families, with couples still preferring to have at least one son. But the government has done more than just suggest this number. "In India it has been done state by state, village by village," Mosher said. "There have sterilization campaigns and there is enormous pressure. Villages that won’t comply have been denied fertilizer, access to irrigation water, etc."

Complicating matters even further in India is the dowry system, where families pay large sums in order to marry off their daughters. Although prohibited in 1961, newspaper reports illustrate the continuing phenomenon. This can be very expensive for families, adding to the perception that girls can be a financial burden. Abortion is legal in India under certain conditions, but sex-selective abortions or female feticide is a crime. In 1994, the government enacted the Preconception and Prenatal Diagnostic Techniques Act (PC & PNDT), which prohibited those conducting such tests from telling or otherwise communicating to the woman or her family the sex of the fetus. The law was amended in 2003 to prohibit sex selection before or after conception. "In recent years, prenatal sex selection and female feticide in India has increased," Singh said. "Though it is against the law for ultrasound technologies to be used to detect the sex of the child, it is still done illegally." In 2006 a doctor and his assistant in the northern state of Haryana were sentenced to two years in jail and fined for revealing the sex of a female fetus and agreeing to abort it. It was the first time medical professionals were sentenced to jail time under the (PC & PNDT) Act. Three years earlier, a doctor in Punjab received a fine. Singh estimates that hundreds more cases are being investigated across the country and taken to court.

Experts who have analyzed the National Family Health Survey 2 (NFHS2) estimate that about 300,000 girls go "missing" in India each year. Other studies have put the number between 150,000 and 500,000. While many people see this as a problem of the poor, analysts say it is more prevalent among those in the wealthier and educated segments of society. Men in parts of India are also beginning to have difficulties finding brides, causing some to leave the country to do so. "Hindu girls are being smuggled and purchased from poor countries like Nepal and Bhutan to be brides for Indian men," said Bernard Dickens, professor emeritus of health law and policy at the University of Toronto Law School.

Combating the Problem
In recent years various Indian state governments and media houses have launched initiatives to address the gender imbalances, including "Save the Girl Child" campaigns. Last February, the Indian government announced its "cradle scheme," whereby orphanages would be set up to raise unwanted baby girls. Other incentives include tax rebates on ownership of properties and reserving seats for female candidates in villages, districts and at municipal levels. Community groups, corporations and individuals have also started various efforts to enhance the status of the girl child. In March 2007, politician Sonia Gandhi, chairwoman of the United Progressive Alliance, spoke out against female feticide and the need for gender equality at the at the International Women’s Day celebrations in New Delhi. Lara Dutta, UNFPA’s goodwill ambassador, a popular actress and Miss Universe 2000, has also been working extensively with young people to raise awareness about the issue.

China too has enacted laws in an effort to meet its goal of lowering the sex ratio at birth to normal levels by 2010. In 1994, the Mother and Child Health Law of the Peoples Republic of China outlawed the practice of sex identification of the fetus and sex-selective abortions without medical requirements. This was reaffirmed in the 2002 Population and Family Planning Law. Officials also started the "Care for Girls" campaign to promote equality for men and women and economic support is being offered to girl-only families in the countryside. "Raising awareness is important," said William Ryan, a Asia and Pacific regional information advisor for the United Nations Population Fund. "I think the effort to emphasize equality of the sexes and the value of women in society will help reduce the problem in the long run."

China Holds On to One Child
However, China has pledged to keep its one-child policy in place until the year 2050, a policy which it admits is "related" to the large sex imbalances in the country. "The implications are potentially disastrous," Mosher said. "The answer is economic development, not restricting the number of people." This year, the United States sponsored a resolution at the U.N.’s Commission on the Status of Women that called for eliminating infanticide and gender selection. The resolution was withdrawn due to opposition from several countries, including China and India; however, the issue of prenatal sex selection was included in the final conference document. Interestingly South Korea was one of the countries to support the resolution. Like China and India, it too has had its own problems with sex imbalances; however, progress is being made. If the imbalances continue, Adam Jones, executive director of Gendercide Watch, sees another possible outcome. "Because of the disparity, surviving women have greater market value," he said. "As a result, it may become more economically viable for families to have girl children, thus reducing rates of female infanticide and sex selection."

As China and India work toward solving their problems, Eberstadt points out that three large European countries are also showing disturbing signs. "Greece, Macedonia and Yugoslavia betray some hints of prejudicial death rates for little girls in the post-war period," he said. While the numbers are very small, he notes they are "nonetheless curious and unusual. "In the western hemisphere, Venezuela and El Salvador both have unnatural death rates for little girls and now also display unnatural sex ratios at birth," he continued. Published reports point to problems among some immigrant groups in Canada as well. And even in the United States, Eberstadt said, some Asian-American populations have begun to "exhibit sex ratios at birth that could be considered biologically impossible."
"Since the mid-1990s, the issue of female infanticide and sex selection has been highlighted in several conferences and in several U.N. documents," said Samantha Singson, chief U.N. liaison for the Catholic Family and Human Rights Institute. "Unfortunately the issue isn’t getting as much attention as we feel it deserves."

Friday, June 08, 2007

Poll Says American Car Makers Need More MPG

A poll, sponsored by, shows that US car makers need to accomplish two tasks in order for Americans to purchase their vehicles:
First, they need to increase fuel economy. Second, the big three marks need to improve quality and reliability in their vehicles. An overwhelming 78% (13493) chose one of those two answers as the way to get American dollars back into their coffers.

The unscientific poll is ongoing and being sponsored exclusively by

What do you think is the most important thing American car companies need to do to get people to buy more American cars? (Discuss)
Increase their cars' fuel efficiency 40%
Improve their cars' quality/reliability 38%
Lower their cars' prices 16%
Something else 3%
No opinion 1%
Total votes: 17298