Category Archives: Technology

NBC and Twitter Conspire to Censorship.

Posting the email address Gary.zenkel@nbcuni.com cost Tweeter his account.

Guy Adams is pretty upset with NBCs Olympic coverage and the way it is handling the time shifted coverage, and hasn’t been shy about letting the world know.  He holds Gary Zenkel, the president of NBC Olympics, as the “moronic exec behind the time delay.” And he said Zenkel should be fired. When He posted Zenkel’s publicly known email address NBC complained to Twitter and Twitter cancelled his account.

Adams said in a column for The Independent that Twitter claimed he crossed the line by tweeting out Zenkel’s corporate email address and encouraging his followers to contact the executive directly.

The email address is easily identifiable, common with how thousands of NBC/Univision employees’ email addresses are determined.

Twitter soon suspended Adams’ account, he said. In a story he wrote in The Independent, Adams wrote that after filing an article critical of NBC’s coverage, he checked his Twitter account only to find it had been suspended. When he inquired why, he received the following response: “Your Twitter account has been suspended for posting an individual’s private information such as private email address.”

With that, the account was gone.

And a controversy was born.

Those who object to the heavy handed way that NBC handled this might wawwant to drop an email to. Gary.zenkel@nbcuni.com

Pi in the Sky

Rasberry Pi
Rasperry Pi

In England some people have decided to do something about what they feel is a slipping in their computer skills as a nation,  They have been working on a $25.00 solution. The Raspberry Pi.  The boards are slowly being let out to the legions of waiting hackers ( I expect to get mine at around the middle of April. The Raspberry Pi has created a lot of chatter and plans. It will be able to run several OS systems including some pretty robust Linux based systems,  complete with the standard development  tools. Of all the different plans and hacks, the strangest idea may be comming from the folks at The Pirate Bay.

The idea is to set up drones flying over international waters and using the a Raspberry Pi as a portal to route traffic to secret ground based systems.  In a blog posting yesterday The Pirate Bay folks laid out their plans.

With the development of GPS controlled drones, far-reaching cheap radio equipment and tiny new computers like the Raspberry Pi, we’re going to experiment with sending out some small drones that will float some kilometers up in the air. This way our machines will have to be shut down with aeroplanes in order to shut down the system. A real act of war.

We’re just starting so we haven’t figured everything out yet. But we can’t limit ourselves to hosting things just on land anymore. These Low Orbit Server Stations (LOSS) are just the first attempt. With modern radio transmitters we can get over 100Mbps per node up to 50km away. For the proxy system we’re building, that’s more than enough.

But when time comes we will host in all parts of the galaxy, being true to our slogan of being the galaxy’s most resilient system. And all of the parts we’ll use to build thatsystem on will be downloadable.

They aren’t without their critics, and while I  believe the future belong to those who take bold steps, I cant help but wonder what these guys are smoking and what tint of purple haze are they in while they type this stuff.

Just wondering ..

Montgomerry TX, Militarized Zone

Montgomery County crashed a drone into their SWAT team tank. I suppose we should just be grateful that it was a tank they crashed into instead of an officer or even an innocent civillian.

As the sheriff’s SWAT team suited up with lots of firepower and their armored vehicle known as the “Bearcat,” a prototype drone from Vanguard Defense Industries took off for pictures of all the police action.   It was basically a photo opportunity, according to those in attendance.

Vanguard CEO Michael Buscher said his company’s prototype drone was flying about 18-feet off the ground when it lost contact with the controller’s console on the ground.   It’s designed to go into an auto shutdown mode, according to Buscher, but when it was coming down the drone crashed into the SWAT team’s armored vehicle.

The damage was not severe, according to Buscher, who described only some ‘blade strikes’ on the prototype drone that was being shown off to the Montgomery County Sheriff’s team.

Maybe Tom Kirkendall has a point when he questions whether the Montgomery County Sherriffs Department has too much money.  Montgomery County is just north of Houston’s Harris County and has some high value taxable lands in the Woodlands  and parts of  Kingwood.  Apparently the county received a Obaman TARP grant to buy one of these things.  So it isn’t just Montgomery county citizens paying for this thing, but all of us.  Do they really need tanks and drones?

Seems like they hold little regard for the people they are supposed to protect and serve. The safety of a drone will never achieve the safety of real piloted aircraft.  Pilots know that any chances taken with an aircraft endangers their life first. A drone operator has little at stake.  The  GAO has looked these droned with skeptism, and spoke of the risks involved.

In the 2008 GAO study, Gerald Dillingham, Director of Civil Aviation for GAO said,

“The concern is that you could lose control of that aircraft and it could crash into something on the ground or, in fact, it could crash into another air vehicle.”

The GAO study found that 65% of drone crashes were caused by mechanical failures.  The study analyzed Pentagon and NASA data on 199 crashes of drones on battlefields.

Before this Montgomery County crash, the only crash of a law enforcement drone was recorded in 2006 in Nogales, Arizona.   The Customs & Border Protection flight crashed in the desert due to the same “lost link” scenario that sent the Montgomery County unit crashing into its SWAT team tank.

When the link between the drone and the control console on the ground is lost, all drones are designed to steady up and glide to a landing.   In some cases, the drones already have a location programmed in for landing in the event of a problem.  In others, there is no such pre-determined landing zone.

Dillingham said that’s another dangerous problem with drones in urban areas.  He said,

“If you’re onboard the aircraft, you can tell that you’re in turbulence and you can maneuver to get the plane or the aircraft out of the turbulence.   But if you’re using a UAV and there are no sensors aboard, you don’t really know that and, again, if you lose that communication link as a result of that turbulence or for any other reason, then you have an aircraft that is not in control and can, in fact, crash into something on the ground or another aircraft.”

Montgomery Sheriffs Department had no comment.

Harry Reid’s Secret Plot to Take over the Internets

You just can’t make up this crap.

Harry Reid is having secret meetings in a plot to have Homeland Security take over the Internet. Perhaps believing, “If the people didn’t like SOPA maybe they would like something worse”.

Details about the bill remain shrouded in secrecy. Clues available to the public suggest that the bill might be stronger than President Barack Obama’s cybersecurity proposal, which was released in May 2011. Reid said that he would bring the bill — expected to come out of the Senate Homeland Security and Government Affairs Committee, chaired by Connecticut independent Sen. Joe Lieberman — to the floor during the first Senate work period of 2012.

A classified meeting behind closed doors in October 2011 between key Senate committee leaders with jurisdiction over cybersecurity and White House officials, took place at the request of the Obama administration. Lieberman, in an interview with The Hill in October, said that past Senate cybersecurity bills were considerably stronger than the White House proposal.

I guess my question, “Is this about protecting real security interest or is this another powergrab to protect Hollywood from the teenager  downloading the latest tunes?” He shows little concern on how the voter, or the civilian experts and is prepared to move ahead, despite the peoples will.

“It is my firm hope that the working groups will be able to achieve an agreement on legislation by then, but I believe the cyber threat to be of such urgency that we must act whether or not such agreement can be reached,” Reid wrote.

 Some people never never learn.

A Brilliant Idea

I had the privilege working on a project a few years ago. It was an experiment for creating a drug delivery system for targeted cancer cures or MEPS. A lot of people poured their hearts and souls into, but so far not much has happened to forward the idea. Maybe there is hope:

Angela Zhang of Cupertino has an idea:

 … mix cancer medicine in a polymer that would attach to nanoparticles — nanoparticles that would then attach to cancer cells and show up on an MRI. so doctors could see exactly where the tumors are. Then she thought shat if you aimed an infrared light at the tumors to melt the polymer and release the medicine, thus killing the cancer cells while leaving healthy cells completely unharmed.

Angela is only 17 years old.   Angela, Please keep it up and pursue your idea.

 

Magic Jack Review

When Hurricane Ike struck here on Galveston Island we lost our phone service. By the time we moved back in we got used to using our cell phones and restoring our landlines had a low priority.  for a while we put our phone service on “vacation hold” but eventually we just realized that the hookup fees and the extra monthlies didn’t worth it and we let it go.

I did miss having a landline, talking on a real phone for long calls is more comfortable, and although we have lots of spare minutes,  unexepected events can add up to extensive cell phone time.  So we decided to give Magic jack a try. At $69 for the first year it seems to be worth a shot.

I ordered it on line and a few days later our new Magic Jack plus arrived.  It contained the Magic Jack Plus dongle a small 110 volt to USB power unit, a short usb extender and an ethernet cable.  Equality picked up a cordless 3 phone set to go with it.

The Magic Jack needs to be connected to a computer to configure and attach a phone number to it.  The Device works with Windows and Mac machines it is not Linux compatable.   Once it is all configured it can be connected directly to a router directly won”t need a computer anymore.

Once the Magic Jack Plus is plugged into the computer the program is automagically installed and started. The user is guided to selecting a phone number or to transfer their existing number. The menus selections have some upsell options, but is pretty easy to navigate anf only takes 10 or 15 minutes. After the Magic Jack + is configured the user has the option of leaving it plugged into the computer, or to connect it up to the network.

The Good

The good news is that the Magic Jack Plus works and it is pretty cheap.   The sound quality is excellent exceeding that of cell phones.   It delivers on what I expected and wanted. Unlike the old Magic Jack a computer doesn’t have to be up and running. As I type this Vonage is and Comcast are advertising their basic services at around $20 to $30 dollars a month  about what the yearly rate is for Magic Jack Plus.

The Bad

Magic Jack isn’t without some issues. If you use it to replace a regular phone line You have more points of failure. If you lose cable or power or a router failure you lose your phone. One might consider putting A phone Modems, Router and Magic Jack on a UPS. These are low power devices

Their built in service includes an service which will pick up the phone after 4 rings.  The answering service announces it is a Magic Jack service. If you wish to use your own answering machine you have to set it to pick up on the 3rd ring.  This doesn’t give much time to answer the phone.  It would be nice if we could have the choice of disabling automatic answering altogether.

The Ugly

It came as no surprise to find that their support is lousy. It is only available via Web Chat. and that it is pretty lousy. The web and forums are full of complaints about their service support.  I had attempted to reclaim my old home phone line. We had abandoned the number 2 years ago, but it still isn’t in use.  The installation accepted my old number, and it reported the number as my ID when I dialed into my cell. I couldn’t call into my phone. I  didn’t know what the problem was and and called support via the chat.  They had me reconfigure reboot and moved me up to whats called a  10% level support and she ran me they ran me through the same procedures.  Finally she gave up, and told me they would refer me to engineering and they would get back to me. I was on chat for about an hour.

After the unsuccessful chats I checked my email before I prepared to leave for the day. I found an email with a time stamp of 6:02am that I received just as I was beginning the support chat telling me that my phone number transfer was unsuccessful.  I went back and picked out another phone number and everything worked properly.  It seems to me that  the support people should have been able to find this out.

Conclusions:

Magic Jack plus delivers a good quality phone line, Once it is up and running there should be little need for any support. Set up and configuration is straightforward, but a user might be in trouble if they are need in need of customer support.  There are some preresiquites to get the Magic Jack working.

  • A Windows or Apple Computer
  • A good Highspeed Internet connection.  To use the system without a computer you will probably need a router with an available ethernet connection.  One can connect through a computer that has a highspeed internet connection, but if the computer goes down there is no phone. Using the computer to make the connection might be a good option for those who have only WiFi service in their homes.
  • A phone. A regular plain old corded phone should work. but the Magic Jack might not be able to power more than one or 2 non powered phones. A regular corded phone requires power to ring the phone.

People who live  or spend time out of the country might find this particularly usefull. One can set it up using a stateside phone number and call abe called without dealing with international rates or calling plans. The unit is very small and can be used with regular headset and mike available anywhere. I am happy with mine because I can use a regular phone and line. I can send or receive a fax if I want to.  Its probably never going to be a real minutes saver on my phone because I get free minutes on my cell service if talking to others on  the same plan.  So I if I call one of the phones in my family with this its going to count toward my minutes.

The bottom line is this thing works and is cheap.

The GoDaddy Boycott Busts, Sort of

Thursday was the scheduled day for the boycott of Go Daddy over SOPA.  Go Daddy has gone from supporting SOPA to pulling support from SOPA  to claiming SOPA and PIPA is a bad idea.  I don’t know how sincere they are but it’s apparrent they were bleeding customers and their trust.

While GoDaddy had previously withdrawn its support for SOPA, until Thursday’s statement, the company had not voiced public disagreement towards the bill,which the House Judiciary Committee had been debating before adjourning for the holiday.

According to Yahoo, about 70,000 domains had already been switched before Thursday’s planned boycott. While these numbers aren’t extremely consequential to a company that hosts 50 million websites worldwide, these withdrawals along with high profile moves from Wikipedia, Cheezburger and image sharing site Imgur seem to have been enough to force GoDaddy’s hand.

Now, I don’t believe for a minute that Go Daddy is genuine in their recant of SOPA, their only regret is that their customer base found out that they have Hollywood’s interest over their customers.  The damage is done, they’ve helped craft the bill and supported it through the committee hearings it really doesn’t matter any more whether they support it or not.   Until we see proof that they will actually fight online censorship.

Go Daddy isn’t the only company that has supported SOPA and PIPA there is News Corp (Foxnews), CBS (C-Net), NBC and Disney. Just about all of the media, We don’t hear much about boycotting them.  Go Daddy struck our ire because we expected them to support their customers and the open internet.

I seriously considered pulling my domain.  I decided to wait. I have 2 domains, and am well paid up until for the next several months. If I were to bail on Go Daddy Thursday, they would still have my money, yet not have to provide any services. This would hardly be punishing them. On the other hand I can’t see renewing my services with them, Later on this summer I will move my sites to Host Gator. I will do so when I have used up my contract, and have the time to ensure that I can move this blog safely.

 

Go Daddy Bites the Hand that Feeds Them

Passing SOPA would be a web owners worst nightmare. Godaddy’s support of it is a stand against its customers,  SOPA and its sister bill, PROTECT IP Act, in the Senate is a bad idea that promises to censor and restrict the web as we know it,  and threatens the very existance of websites like this that don’t have a staff of lawyers and editors to maintain compliance.   It is understandable that if not to be expected that Godaddy has pissed of its customers base.

There has been a tremendous backlash against GoDaddy.

Talk of a Go Daddy boycott began yesterday on community link-sharing site Reddit, and quickly grew to include several influential business leaders and media personalities. Among them were Y Combinator founderPaul Graham, Cheezburger CEO Ben Huh and celebrity/investor Ashton Kutcher. The company’s change-of-heart was announced today around the same time Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales Tweeted he would be transferring Wikipedia’s domains from Go Daddy in protest.

Go Daddy initially shrugged off the protests, issuing a nonchalant response to let people know it hasn’t negatively impacted its business — which was the equivalent of shaking the hell out of a giant beehive and not expecting to get stung. Boycott participators responded by publishing step-by-step tutorials for transferring a bulk of domains to a new registrar, complete with recommendations to competitors.

Go Daddy’s response didn’t get to to the heart of it. They basically claimed that SOPA might be poorly written, although they support the basic idea behind it, they are withdrawing support. They didn’t offer to fight it it or withdraw support from the  Senate’s PROTECT IP ACT. It gets worse for Go Daddy.

Hosting and domain registrar company Go Daddy has lost more than 37,000 domains in the past two days due to the company’s wishy-washy stance on the Stop Online Piracy Act.

Talk of a Go Daddy boycott began yesterday on community link-sharing site Reddit, and quickly grew to include several influential business leaders and media personalities. Among them were Y Combinator founderPaul Graham, Cheezburger CEO Ben Huh and celebrity/investor Ashton Kutcher. The company’s change-of-heart was announced today around the same time Wikipedia’s Jimmy Wales Tweeted he would be transferring Wikipedia’s domains from Go Daddy in protest.

Go Daddy initially shrugged off the protests, issuing a nonchalant response to let people know it hasn’t negatively impacted its business — which was the equivalent of shaking the hell out of a giant beehive and not expecting to get stung. Boycott participators responded by publishing step-by-step tutorials for transferring a bulk of domains to a new registrar, complete with recommendations to competitors.

37,000 in two days before Christmas, looks like the beginning of an avalanche of bailouts. Now I’m left with a dillema.  This blog and the domain is hosted by Go Daddy, I’m paid up ahead, and I’ve been pretty happy with their service.  Host Gater is a local Houston Company has a good reputation, and is opposed to Govenment and Hollywood censorship. Their statement opposing SOPA:

Imagine if you were able to genetically combine Osama bin Laden, Saddam Hussein, Darth Vader and Barbara Streisand into one horrifically terrifying being. Now imagine that being is actually a piece of proposed legislature — the terrifying creation in your midst would then be the Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) which is currently being considered by the House.

SOPA, aka H.R. 3261 is a bill right now in the House sponsored by R-TX Lamar Smith. It’s not just any bill though, it’s a bill that would allow the USDOJ, RIAA, MPAA and anyone else who lobbies for the entertainment industry to effectively censor the internet to suit their needs.

So, I’ve got a lot to consider. moving the content and the domain is a scary thing,  a lot of work and some money. Perhaps if Go Daddy took a substantial stand to actually fight this thing my decision would be a little easier. A significant donation to someone like the Electronic Frontier Foundation perhaps?

Nightmare on the Interwebs

Alexandra Petri isn’t the only one having nightmares:

Last night I had a horrifying dream that a group of well-intentioned middle-aged people who could not distinguish between a domain name and an IP address were trying to regulate the Internet. Then I woke up and the Judiciary Committee’s SOPA hearings were on.

It’s exactly as we feared. For every person who appears to have some grip on the issue, there were three or four yelling at him.

The experts testifying for SOPA and promising that SOPA won’t be disastrous to the internet, admit they don’t know anything about how it works.  The experts on the Web are the folks claiming an end to to the web as we know it.  Who do we believe Spielberg who makes Billions making movies, or the folks who actually built the internet?

There ought to be a law, I think, that in order to regulate something you have to have some understanding of it. And when people are saying things like, “This is just the rogue foreign Web sites” and “This only targets the bad actors” and “So you want universities to host illegal pirated versions of copyrighted content?,” it’s enough to make you claw out large fistfuls of your hair. No! No! Nobody is hosting anything. This bill would require service providers to cut off access to entire Web sites where users are deemed to be engaging in copyright infringement, not take down stolen content they posted themselves. That’s already against the law. But no one seemed to be able to express this.

When you have a signed letter from the engineers responsible for creating the Internet pointing out that this bill would jeopardize our cybersecurity, balkanize the Internet and create a climate of uncertainty that would stifle innovation, it seems odd to ignore it. As a general rule, when the people saying that this will have a horrible, chilling impact on something are the ones who created that thing in the first place, and the people who are saying, “Oh, no, it’ll be fine, it only targets the bad actors” are members of the Motion Picture Association of America, it seems obvious whose opinion you should heed.

The problem is the folks with the most influence at the capital aren’t the people with the most knowledge, but the folks willing to spend the moist money for their cause.

A Wiki Boycott

Jimmy Wales, the founder of Wikipedia. is publically considering shutting down Wikipedia in protest of SOPA.

The proposed shutdown has nothing to do with technical problems or money issues, and everything to do with the Stop Online Piracy Act, an anti-piracy bill that has raised the ire of many major technology companies. This past weekend, Wikipedia co-founder Jimmy Wales posted a discussion on his Wikipedia user page suggesting that the English-language version of Wikipedia may temporarily go dark to protest the bill, which critics say gives movie studios and other copyright holders unprecedented power to shut down Web sites seen as infringing on their content.

SOPA endangers the very existence of Wikipedia,  and most any other site that relies on links or user input.  SOPA would criminalize links to sites that offer copyright violations, or other things that offend the sensibilities of the Hollywood crowd. On the surface this might sound reasonable bu the penalties kick in with out trial or court orders and site owners have little opportunity to defend themselves. Web owners and maintainers have a difficult time keeping their websites clean as it is. Most of us don’t want this crap on our sites and work hard and dilligently at keeping our sites clean, but it isn’t our job to protect the Hollywood moguls and their revenues.

SOPA is an attempt to shut down the internet, and restrict voices to only the Hollywood approved.  It is an attempt to shutdown search engines like Google or Bing. Google is very worried, and concerned that it will crimminalize every search engine.

An online piracy bill in the House would “criminalize linking and the fundamental structure of the Internet itself,” according to Google Executive Chairman Eric Schmidt.

Schmidt said the controversial Stop Online Piracy Act (SOPA) would punish Web firms, including search engines, that link to foreign websites dedicated to online piracy. He said implementing the bill as written would effectively break the Internet.

 

“By criminalizing links, what these bills do is they force you to take content off the Internet,” Schmidt said, calling it a form of censorship.

 

The search giant has been at the forefront of a tech industry backlash against the legislation from House Judiciary Chairman Lamar Smith (R-Texas).

“If Congress writes a bad law, we all suffer,” Schmidt said.

He compared the proposal to the Web censorship practiced by repressive foreign governments like China and doubled down on that comparison when speaking with reporters after his remarks at the Economic Club of Washington.

If Wikipedia shuts down in protest of the of SOPA I will pull the plug on my little Wiki , and if I can safely take my blog down for the duration I will take down this blog.  The Wiki is easy, I can literally just pull the plug.