Tuesday, March 30, 2004

ABC News has an article on the Bush Administration's race to weaponize space. One senior government official is quoted as saying "We're crossing the Rubicon into space weaponization." Apparently the political protection being offered by the White House is enough to ensure continued development of these space-based weapons.

Monday, March 29, 2004

Want to know who your neighbors are spending their discretionary political dollars on? Here comes the Internet to the rescue. The Fundrace 2004 Neighbor Search will take a name or address and return a list of major donors who match. Who knew that Karl Rove had so many Deaniacs living nearby?

Friday, March 26, 2004

Speaking at Georgetown University's law school in Washington this week, Senator Patrick Leahy (D-Vt.) called on Congress to hold hearings on RFID technology.
The issue of outsourcing broadens with this story about Builder.com's plan to hire Indians to write articles for the online tech site.
Steve Ballmer is saying Microsoft blew it big-time by not jumping into the search market while they still had a chance to dominate. Perhaps most telling is his quote: "I want to make sure [a user] can't get through ... an online experience without hitting a Microsoft ad," . Gee, thanks Steve, but I think I'll pass.
Mark Frauenfelder has an interesting article at TheFeature about a new device called the Portable People Meter from Arbitron. In brief, the pager-like device monitors your media consumption throughout the day, no matter where you are, and updates the master database with your info. The aggregate data is then sold to advertisers and media producers to 'better' serve their customers.

Thursday, March 25, 2004

German police have reportedly arrested more than 300 people for posting pro-Nazi music onto the Internet so others could download them.

Wednesday, March 24, 2004

Business Week has an industry insider interview with Scott McGregor of Philips Semiconductor about how "Like It or Not, RFID Is Coming". In answering one question regarding privacy, Mr. McGregor replies that it's similar to when laser scanners came to supermarkets. "When the laser scanners were coming out, everybody was saying, retailers are going to collect information about what you buy. And none of that happened." Of course some people would probably disagree.
Not that I would ever recommend such a product, but Global Gadget UK is selling a Cell Phone Jammer so "you will be able to silence those anti-social types who insist on using their mobile phones in the most indiscrete way".
Jack Valenti is retiring from the MPAA, the industry trade group he's headed for many, many years. This is the man who says "In the digital world, we don't need back-ups, because a digital copy never wears out" and famously proclaimed to the Senate in 1984 "I say to you that the VCR is to the American film producer and the American public as the Boston strangler is to the woman home alone". He's got a long history of fighting for big studios, regardless of the rights of consumers, particularly when it comes to fair use of copyrighted material. Don't let the door hit you on the way out.
Senators are talking about the SPYBLOCK Act today in DC. The Act is meant to prohibit spyware from being installed on a computer without the user's permission.
The RIAA has filed another round of lawsuits against alleged illegal file traders. This time the 500+ cases include a significant number of University users.
Unable to pull off the deal it arranged in the U.S., Microsoft has been fined a record $613 million after the European Commision found the company has abused its monopoly power.

Tuesday, March 23, 2004

Wonkette is apparently being blocked by the Department of Justice's Websense filter (which has a long tradition of protecting Americans).

A quick check at the Network Support Services Branch of the Department of Education shows that they also block "Sites that provide information on or promote religions not listed in Traditional Religions and on other unconventional religious or quasi-religious subjects...". Hmmm, it allows only traditional religious information. Why let a little thing like the First Amendment get in the way?

Monday, March 22, 2004

While testifying before the House Budget Sub-Commitee on 3/17/2004 (regarding the budget for fiscal year 2005), Supreme Court Justice Clarence Thomas indicated that a fair amount of staff reasources at the Supreme Court has been dedicated to fighting "worms" and "backdoor" viruses, which apparently have become a big problem at SCOTUS.

Friday, March 19, 2004

The AP is running a piece about how camera phones are increasingly being used to catch crimminals. This isn't new, but it is becoming more and more common.
Reuters is reporting that "at least 12" Southern Calif. Edison employees modified computer data in order to ensure positive customer feedback responses. The falsification may have resulted in millions of dollars of misdirected funds.

Thursday, March 18, 2004

At least one Optical Scan machine (from Sequoia Voting Systems) was so poorly calibrated duing the election earlier this month that it will require a recount of thousands of ballots in Napa County, possibly reversing the outcome of some elections. Kim Alexander, president and founder of the California Voter Foundation noted it's a good thing that there was a paper trail. If they were using strictly electronic ballots "they might not have ever known there was a problem at all".
Microsoft Programmer Fabian Toader says he wrote the code for Kazaa while working as a freelancer. He's suing Sharman Networks for a cool $25 Million in compensation. Sharman, through a spokesperson, says the lawsuit is nothing more than a "shakedown effort".
China has reportedly shut down two blogs serving tens of thousands of Chinese. The allegations include postings regarding the 1989 Tiananmen Square incident. The message posted at BlogBus.Com essentially says "We're sorry, but the site is temporarily down because an individual posted prohibited content".

Tuesday, March 16, 2004

CNN is making headlines out of the story of a boy pulling a knife on his father after dad unplugged the kid's videogame. While junior made a pretty stupid mistake, I'm wondering why this makes the front page. Is this the first time a kid's threatened his parents because of a denied pleasure? I doubt it and am fairly certain this isn't a new phenomenon. Just more "oohhhh, those dangerous computers" rhetoric.

Monday, March 15, 2004

The game N.A.R.C. is coming back, and is getting some press because "players will make the choice to play it straight or use and abuse narcotics to get that extra edge and quick cash". Just don't take the Brown Acid.
Wanna know more about heap overflows and Windows exploits? Then The Shellcoder's Handbook may be for you, and some folks aren't too pleased.
In France, The Society of Music Creators, Composers and Publishers is threatening to sue Apple over the loss of royalties brought about by the iPod.
Stating that "There couldn't be a clearer case of what's not allowed on eBay", the online auction clearinghouse removed a page which offered three Vietnamese Women for Auction, deliverable only to Taiwan.
The United States Enrichment Corporation is reporting that 10% of the energy produced in the U.S. comes from uranium taken from old Soviet nukes.
The EU is going to invest 50,000,000 euros in an effort to clean up the Internet and make it friendlier to kids. The money is going to be spent on hotlines and in "support" of ratings and filtering, along with other things.
U.S. District Judge Royce Lamberth has, for the third time, shut down the Internet servers of the Interior Department. According to the AP, Lamberth has issued the order because the Department refuses to work with Alan Balaran, the Special Master assigned in the case. At risk are the millions of dollars in royalties for Native Americans being held in trust by the US government.
Well, the Grand Challenge is over and, depending on your viewpoint, it was either a great success or a miserable failure. Of course, it wasn't the latter, because it was never really expected that the entrants would finish. Still, it would have been nice if at least one of them completed the course. Here's wishing the IRRF better luck in September.
Xeni Jardin has written a story for Wired News which suggests that not only is California's attorney general Bill Lockyer preparing an all out assault on P2P software (by delclaring it a "dangerous product"), but that he may have gotten help from the MPAA in drafting the letter.
Vivek over at Cool/Lame is providing a side by side compairison of the Bush and Kerry blogs. Kinda interesting to see what they each want us to focus on.

Friday, March 12, 2004

The Robot Fever continues as Sony announces a robot which can conduct orchestras and Toyota enters the humanoid robot market with a model that can play the trumpet.

Wednesday, March 10, 2004

News.com is reporting that Microsoft has been sending free copies of its software to government employees, possibly in violation of federal ethics policies.
I recently bought a Nitrus mp3 player and love it. What I like is that it stores hundreds of songs, has rechargable batteries which can last me weeks, and it's got a simple interface (though I do wish the display text size could be adjusted). What I didn't think about was how I was buying a "multi-faceted transformative device" which allowed me to "manage space, time and the boundaries around the self."

But this is the kind of stuff Dr Michael Bull thinks about, all the time.
Judge Richard Owen has granted a stay to an earlier order requiring 321 Studios to stop shipping its DVD copying software.
Dan Gilmore has a nice little piece currently running, reminding us that, when it comes to evoting, everything didn't go so well during the recent election, regardless of what others would have you believe.
After only a couple of months, The Daily Variety's Porning Report has been shut down. Hmmm, who knew Ms. Jackson's right breast was so powerful.
The Berkeley Robotics and Human Engineering Laboratory is getting a lot of PR today by announcing how its BLEEX Project (funded by DARPA) might produce Super Troops. Maybe one day, but don't hold yer breath.

Monday, March 08, 2004

The RNC is trying to scare broadcasters into not airing political ads from moveon.org. This includes the beautiful ad which CBS had earlier refused to air because it was too controversial for the Superbowl.

Sunday, March 07, 2004

Choice Point is selling background check software for $40 at retailers such as Sam's Club. Privacy advocates aren't pleased.

Friday, March 05, 2004

Richmond Va. General District Judge Ralph B. Robertson has resigned after making racist remarks in an Internet chat room. Ummm, he says he's not a racist, but a racialist (I've never met a racist who would admit it). You can decide. He apparently wrote "African-Americans are prone to crime and violence because it is in their genes" and agreed when someone suggested that minorities "have no regard for sanitation, courtesy, private property, etc." Ugh.

Call it what you will Judge. Don't let the door hit you too hard on the way out.
Computer scientists at the University of Washington in Seattle took a look at their network traffic and estimate that 5.1% of all machines (just over 1 in 20) are running some form of spyware. Almost 70% of departments and offices had at least one infected computer. Ohhhhhh, good.
Last week Hitachi announced the Transpost, which creates a holographic-like display, which allows 360 degree viewable area (you can walk around it). So far, the image quality doesn't look so hot, but time will tell. Kinda reminds me of the Fogscreen.
The Ghost Rider Robot is a single track (two wheeled) autonomous vehicle (ie. motorcycle). It looks very cool. I bet the Generals in D.C. are salivating too.
Love in War has released its "Useful Voter Guide: Are You A Democrat Or A Republican?" game. When I played, I found it's assessment disturbingly accurate.
The French company bioMerieux is said to be developing the FoodExpert ID Card which will be able to do DNA testing on the food you each. Mmmm, tastes like chicken!
The EU is said to be considering their own version of the DMCA. According to some reports, the European Union Directive for the Enforcement of Intellectual Property Rights is much more far-reaching than the U.S. version.
The RIAA has been promoting technology from Audible Magic which is claimed to be able to identify copyrighted songs on peer to peer networks such as Kazaa. The important point to note is how the RIAA has been introducing the Audible Magic folks to all the politicos in D.C. Your tax dollars at work.
Open Source advocate Eric Raymond has posted yet another Halloween document which he says indicates that Microsoft contributed millions of dollars to SCO, allowing them to continue their fight against Linux users. Not surprisingly, SCO is saying that, while the email is genuine, Mr. Raymond's conclusions are not.

Thursday, March 04, 2004

California State officials have decided to classify some computer components as hazardous material after finding out that (gasp!) computer equipment contains stuff like lead and copper. The plan behind the "Electronic Waste Recycling Act of 2003" is to charge an additional $6-$10 for these things in order to fund computer recycling programs. No word if people who live in cities with an active recycling program (such as Burbank) will get a break. Probably not. Of sigificant note is the provision of the law which prohibits the disposal of the equipment in countries which do not follow U.S. environmental standards.
Finnish police are quite pleased with the success of an online form used by citizens to file police reports. It's been in place for a year now, with 23,000 reports filed so far.
Martijn Reemst has posted the Calvin and Hobbes Extensive Strip Search. An searchable online repository of what is arguably the finest comic strip ever created. And while many of these gems are truly great, my favorite just happens to be the very last one.
The opportunitygrrl and Spirit Rover Live Journals are blogs "written" by the Opportunity and Spirit Rovers which are currently exploring the surface of Mars. Pretty funny. Typical Opportunity entry: "NASA woke me up with Whitesnake this morning! That band is like, so old and soooooo not my style!", while Spirit seems much more sullen: "can't i just explore mars in my own way? i don't need this constant ordering around! when do i get to make my own choices, anyway? it's my life, after all."
The new game LifeLine is said to be the first game where voice commands are the only way to control the action. The makers claim the game will understand over 500 words, and 100,000 phrases. I'd like to try it out sometime. If it can understand my speaking, then I'll say it works.

Wednesday, March 03, 2004

The St. Petersburg Times is reporting that a Florida school district will require students to give their thumbprint before they'd be allowed to ride a school bus. The bus will be equipped with a GPS transponder which will allow the school district to pinpoint the exact location of every student while in transit. "...school officials say the safety benefits of the project far outweigh concerns about civil liberties." We'll see.
The FBI Innocent Images Task Force has been gathering information about suspected child molestors for some time via chat rooms and web sites. Now the FBI is collecting, and displaying images of these suspects that have been gleened from actual child porn images. Bad enough that these molestors are out there. The fact that they're stupid enough to appear in the images they spread around just adds to the sweetness of their arrests.
Can computers predict the future actions of terrorists, crimminals and really, really bad kids? Some folks think so and are trying to convince others (read: govt.) that the potential is worth funding.
It's no secret that I love BoingBoing and visit it several times a day. It's a wonderful place to get lots of info about weird and interesting things. Today's edition is an embarrasment of riches. Rather than creating several entries to mirror those ay BB, I'll just list some of the really cool ones I've seen this morning.

Tribal Digital Village (no relation) is an attempt to get Native Americans connected to the 'net and to each other. The Beeb has a good overview.

The first music video shot entirely with a Nokia phone is pretty bad, but it's still the first!

Variety has finally jumped onto the Silly Game bandwagon by launching a weblog devoted to Electronic Gaming. This to supplement their existing blogs covering porn, comics and tchotchkes.

Speaking of silly games, folks in OZ might want to check out I Like Frank, a mix of Meatspace and Virtual World gaming.

Mixing sex and silly games, we have the Accidental Video Game Porn Archive. And here you thought Johnny was simply improving his shooting skills.

The NYT has an article on the ABSOLUTELY wonderful photo art of Loretta Lux. Beautiful stuff! A bit creepy, but really gorgeous.

Thanks again to the contributors to BoingBoing for the above pointers.
The SCO Group has announced its first lawsuits against Linux users. I think it's a little surprising that they're going after a couple of Big Fish in AutoZone and DaimlerChrysler. These are companies that obviously have a legal staff capable of the challenge. My only guess is that SCO is hoping the companies will want to avoid the legal skirmish and just settle out of court.
We had Avi Rubin on as a guest a few months ago, talking about the Analysis of an Electronic Voting System he co-authored. Yesterday he was an election judge in Baltimore and he's written of his experience. A terrific account of "on the ground" democracy in action.

Tuesday, March 02, 2004

Our illustrious Solicitor General Theodore Olson told the Supreme Court today that he got more that 6 million responses when he typed "free porn" into an Internet search engine (probably Google, which returned 6,830,000 matches when I tried the test). Mr. Olson apparently believes this is proof that obscenity is out of control on the 'net and too widely available to minors. Of course typing "Free Money" into the same search engine produces more than twice the number of links. And of course we all know how easy it is to get free money off the web.
Well, the Super Tuesday results are beginning to come in and, no surprises here, electronic voting is messed up. The problems are apparently the ones that experts have been warning about: Unprotected voting machines being left unsupervised, election officials who don't know how to set up the machines, plus a number of other failures which required the distribution of paper ballots to those who showed up to vote. <sigh>
I was incredibly surprised at how good DJ Danger Mouse's The Grey Album really is. It's obviously a cool idea, but he actually pulled it off pretty well. Clearly, it advances music and makes a contribution to our greater society. We've talked about it, as well as the Grey Tuesday protest over the last few weeks. Now the EFF has quick overview of the some of the copyright issues involved. Who owns the sounds? Who owns the tunes? Who owns the mix? All good questions.
Hey guys! Ever want to know how a distaff clone of yourself would look, but didn't want to bother with expensive surgery and uncomfortable conversations with the in-laws? Technology to the rescue! Now for $60 (on up), any Adam can find out what his hidden Amanda looks like. They also advertise the service to women so they can unleash the supermodel which apparently lurks deep in their soul. Some may make fun, but if it can do this for George W, think what it can do for you.
It seems that Opportunity, one of two working robots that NASA currently has on the planet Mars, has found evidence that the area it's exploring was once "soaking wet" with water.
It seems journalists who blog make editors nervous, even when it's a personal blog about personal interest. Hmmmm, editors probably need to meet some "control freak" requirement to get the job, but this strikes me as yet another blow to personal expression. What, do the editors get to preview letters to grandma too?

For evidence of how a journalist can use a blog to effectively get the story out, take a look at Kevin Sites really tremendous blog. Tell me the last time you saw images like this on CNN.
Ric passed along an interesting article about how Mendicino may become the first county in the nation to ban "propagation, cultivation, raising, and growing of genetically modified organisms." Monsanto, DuPont, and Dow are not pleased.
We've been covering the flaws inherent in electronic voting machines for quite some time and just last Saturday interviewed Bev Harris of Black Box Voting, who has been warning us of the problems for even longer. She was interviewed on CNN that weekend talking, among other things, how it's not too late to include an auditable paper trail along with the machines to insure security. CNN's Super Tuesday update doesn't quote Bev, but does include relevant info.
O'Reilly's Bill Stewart has an interesting interview with Andrew "bunnie" Huang, the author of Hacking the Xbox. Of particular interest to me is how the DMCA made it so difficult to get the book published. Just another example of stifled creativity.
I've known about this for a while, but Slashdot today has a post about how the CIA used Malware to facilitate the descruction of a Soviet pipeline. It makes for interesting speculation about Windows, no?
Some folks think there are RFID tags embedded in the new $20 bills. I think it smells a little fishy. I would think they'd start with $100 (maybe), but frying up $1000 on a whim seems a bit much. I guess I'm not the only skeptical one either. Still, it's an interesting notion, and one I'm sure the feds have thought about implementing.

Monday, March 01, 2004

Welcome to the new Digital Village blog. More to follow.