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True Video Lies

This is a longer version of a piece I recorded for the BBC World Service. The other day my wife lost her phone out shopping. We narrowed it down to either the supermarket or the taxi. So we took her shopping receipt to the supermarket and asked to see their CCTV to confirm she still had the phone when she left. To my surprise they admitted us into their control room. Banks of monitors covering nooks, crannies, whole floors, each checkout line. There they let us scroll through the security video—I kind of took over, because the guy didn’t seem to know how to useContinue readingTrue Video Lies

Google Suggest: Your Company + Scam

I find that the auto suggestions feature from Google Suggest in the Firefox search box very useful. But perhaps not in the way it was intended. Google Suggest works via algorithms that “use a wide range of information to predict the queries users are most likely to want to see. For example, Google Suggest uses data about the overall popularity of various searches to help rank the refinements it offers.” In other words,  type one word and Google will tell you the next word most likely to be typed after it. Type “dimitar” and the most likely second word will be “berbatov” (this may notContinue readingGoogle Suggest: Your Company + Scam

The New Newswire: a Dutch Student Called Michael

Twitter is now a news service in its own right. ReadWrite Web, an excellent website dedicated to Web 2.0 stuff, points out that the recent earthquake in England–not that unusual in itself, apparently, but rarely actually strong enough to be felt by humans—was reported first by Twitterers and by a Twitter-only news service called BreakingNewsOn (www.twitter.com/BreakingNewsOn):  This story broke over Twitter in the past half hour, and nothing is up yet on the BBC sites, the Guardian, or the Telegraph. This story is breaking live on Twitter. Looking at the situation a few hours later, it’s certainly true that mainstream websites have been a bitContinue readingThe New Newswire: a Dutch Student Called Michael

The Real, Sad Lesson of Burma 2007

Reuters I fear another myth is in the offing: that Burma’s brief uprising last month was a tipping point in citizen journalism. Take this from Seth Mydans’ (an excellent journalist, by the way; I’m just choosing his piece because it’s in front of me) article in today’s IHT: “For those of us who study the history of communication technology, this is of equal importance to the telegraph, which was the first medium that separated communications and transportation,” said Frank Moretti, executive director of the Center for New Media Teaching and Learning at Columbia University. or this, from Xiao Qiang, director of the China Internet ProjectContinue readingThe Real, Sad Lesson of Burma 2007

How to Rip People Off Like Disney World

If you’ve ever visited Disney World, or some other overpriced resorts (last year I visited Warwick Castle and Legoland in the UK, both appallingly people-traps) you’ll have done what I did: vow never to come back. Of course, the companies running these places both know that and don’t care — which is why they are ripping you off royally while they can. Seethu Seetharaman, an associate professor of management at Rice University’s Jesse H. Jones Graduate School of Management, calls it a variety-seeking market and says it doesn’t just apply to tourist attractions: Turns out that the resorts in Orlando are in a market whereContinue readingHow to Rip People Off Like Disney World

Bald-headed Britney and the Lost Art of Linking

I think we’ve missed a big trick with links. You know, those underlined words on a web page that take us somewhere else. They’ve been around a while now, so you’d think we’d have explored them a bit, built a little etiquette around them, what to do, what not to do when you link to something else. After all, by turning a word, an image or a button into a link you’re building a door into another world, sort of. Links are great, it’s just we don’t know how to use them. When we come across a link like this, we’re automatically thrown into confusion:Continue readingBald-headed Britney and the Lost Art of Linking

From the Ashes of Blue Frog

The Blue Frog may be no more,  but the vigilantes are. Seems that despite the death of Blue Security in the face of a spammer’s wrath, the service has built an appetite for fighting back. Eric B. Parizo of SearchSecurity.com reports on a new independent group called Okopipi who intend “to pick up where Blue Security left off by creating an open source, peer-to-peer software program that automatically sends “unsubscribe” messages to spammers and/or reports them to the proper authorities.” Okopipi has already merged with a similar effort known as Black Frog and has recruited about 160 independent programmers, who are dissecting the open sourceContinue readingFrom the Ashes of Blue Frog

The Lego Scam

A man after my own heart: AP reports that a man has been arrested accused of stealing a truck full of Lego: A 40-year-old man is behind bars, accused of stealing hundreds of thousands of dollars of a toy geared toward the 6-and-up crowd: Legos. To haul away the evidence, agents working for the U.S. Postal Inspector said they had to back a 20-foot truck to William Swanberg’s house in Reno, Nev., carting away mountains of the multicolored bricks. Swanberg was indicted Wednesday by a grand jury in Hillsboro, a Portland suburb, which charged him with stealing Legos from Target stores in Oregon. Target estimatesContinue readingThe Lego Scam

The Smell of Sterile Burning

There’s a growing noise about Sony’s apparent attempt to install digital rights management software usually associated with bad guys trying to maintain control of a compromised computer: Mark’s Sysinternals Blog: Sony, Rootkits and Digital Rights Management Gone Too Far: The entire experience was frustrating and irritating. Not only had Sony put software on my system that uses techniques commonly used by malware to mask its presence, the software is poorly written and provides no means for uninstall. Worse, most users that stumble across the cloaked files with a RKR scan will cripple their computer if they attempt the obvious step of deleting the cloaked files.Continue readingThe Smell of Sterile Burning

Publishers Upset By Google Initiative

Did Google check first with publishers before announcing its digital library initiative. Nature reports that publishers are irritated  because they weren’t: Late last year, Google, based in Mountain View, California, announced a decade-long project to scan millions of volumes at the universities of Harvard, Stanford, Michigan and Oxford, as well as the New York Public Library. The resulting archive would allow computer users worldwide to search the texts online. But some publishers complain that they weren’t consulted by Google, and that scanning library collections could be illegal. Not everyone agrees: The story quotes Peter Kosewski, director of publications and communications at Harvard University Library, asContinue readingPublishers Upset By Google Initiative

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