Wednesday, January 27, 2010

It is Official - Behold the iPad

No, really!

You think you're getting one for free from a burning bush?  What have you been smoking?

OK OK, you want to type like your father did and not just on the screen?  (or maybe that dead spot on your screen is stealing the q's from your documents?)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Government-made Terror-Mule

The Slovakian government is completely insane and highly dysfunctional.  Apparently they planted enough plastic explosives on an unknowing airplane passenger's luggage to blow that plane out of the sky.

This was supposedly part of a Slovakian government-run "unconventional security operation" where eight different items were planted on people to test if those items were found during airport screening.

It was not found.  The seven others apparently were - but not the RDX planted on this particular unnamed traveler.

Interestingly when the Slovakian authorities finally contacted the Irish police - three days later - and told them of the test - they fell on the innocent man unwittingly used as a government mule like ravenous raptors, raiding his apartment in Dublin, arresting him, interrogating him, and charging him with being a terrorist.

The Slovakian government then had to convince to the Irish police of the innocence of the man.  Clearly the Irish police took their frustration for being left out of the loop on such an operation out upon the poor man who was used as a stooge by his own government.  Remember - after the Slovakian government contacted the Irish police and had already explained the situation they still charged the man in question rather than merely confiscating the explosives.

While the Irish and the Slovakian authorities try to figure out the legality of such tests - it is left for the rest of the Citizens of the World to wonder what our own governments might end up planting in our luggage.

I have, for example, had Italian cookies stolen from my luggage by security inspectors (I had specifically purchased a sealed container for the purpose of travelling home with it & declared it on my paperwork when coming into the country so the word "confiscated" does not apply.  They did not inform me of it either.) and I have found an umbrella that was not my own in my luggage after it had been searched - making me wonder how many bags are opened & searched at one time where they can mix up people's property.

The best solution to this problem is the same one I propose for all luggage-related issues when flying : ship your bags ahead of you via Federal Express or UPS.  Take nothing on the plane except what fits in your pockets.  The baggage handlers/throwers have no respect for your property to begin with and what you are allowed to take onto the plane can shift so rapidly that you will be required to throw your property in the garbage at the security checkpoint.  I recently saw a pile of discarded laptop cases for example.

In times of old people used to ship their wardrobes ahead of them in steamer trunks.  In the modern age I think that this practice might come into vogue again - if only to minimize the hassle at the security checkpoint.

What is interesting about this practice though is that it actually makes you stand out to the security staff when you travel with no bags.  So there is no real 'win win' scenario, but at least if you have no bags your government can not plant things in them without your knowledge.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Chinese Government Hacks Google

Things are getting pretty serious over at Google with regards to .  It would seem that there was a large-scale effort to root out dissidents by hacking into Google and up to 20 different companies and the Chinese Government is implicated.

To put this in proper perspective - what you have to look at is simply .  That is the number one search engine in China, not Google.  They are eating Google's cheeze on a large-scale while emulating them across the board.  What is interesting is when you crunch the numbers with regards to the number of users.  There are a LOT of people in China with computers today.

The implications with regards to human rights and the freedom of speech are very deep indeed.  I find this particularly fascinating since most large tech companies today are doing everything that they can to do business with China.  Bucking this trend in the name of actual freedoms is a political move that fits perfectly with their original mantra of "Don't Be Evil".

But it has taken them a while to properly define 'Evil' in this context.

Tuesday, January 5, 2010

Too Many Tweets...

How many whales does it take to sink an internet startup?

That is the question that the Twitter User Experience team needs to consider.

I really liked twitter.  It was as anonymous as you wanted it to be.  It could be used with laser-like precision for communicating tons of short updates about just about any damned thing that no one really cares about.

The opt-in/out mechanism is straightforward and the opportunities to game the system are little more than a nuisance.

But how many times do I have to try to tweet & get this stupid message before I just give up?

Worse - how do I depend on this as a professional service for other people to find my information through?

Monday, January 4, 2010

World of Warcraft & Your Privacy

It would seem that a deputy wrote a subpeona to Blizzard Entertainment asking for information to finger a suspect that that fled to Canada.  This was based on information that the suspect that he was looking for actively played World of Warcraft.

It would seem that Blizzard complied enthusiastically and provided among other things, an IP address.  That IP address then provided longitude & latitude information in a "search" which was then put into Google Earth to find a street address.

That address was then given to the Royal Canadian Mounties and the Canadian Border Services Agency who deported him.  Marshals then picked him up in Minneapolis.

What is interesting here is that the Sheriff that the deputy works for has never seen a "fugitive" located in Canada before.  So this is clearly above & beyond what is "normal".

Friday, January 1, 2010

Facebook and Your Privacy

Recently Facebook implemented some changes to their privacy policy.  The intention that they announced was that they wanted to offer you more control of your privacy settings in order to respect your privacy, bla bla bla.

Whatever the reason - they made it extremely easy for you to completely open up your account to EVERYONE by default.

I use a pseudonym on Facebook - so don't bother looking for me unless you actually know me.  Even so you might say that I keep the settings on the "most paranoid" mode.  But as you can clearly see above - by default they wanted to give out all of my information short of my actual Address.  (As though I would actually put it up there?)

You could actually mouse-over the old settings radio buttons & see a popup that displayed what the settings actually were.

But my point is that if you were 'in a hurry' or not willing to read through this carefully - you would find yourself utterly compromised.

I think that this happened to many people recently.  It is an observable and testable fact that the majority of people just click through complicated screens in a hurry to get to what they want.  With the compulsive nature of Facebook use that happened quite a lot. 

Cyber-stalkers of the world rejoice and use this opportunity while it lasts!  People will catch on soon enough & change their settings back - but for a little while - anyone whom might have been unavailable to you just might be wide open right now.