Wednesday’s Wocket Waunch

News is next…
SpaceshipOneGood luck to the team from Scaled Composites, based in Mojave, California, who will attempt to win the X-Prize with its second manned private space flight in two weeks this morning at 7:50a Pacific.

  1. PalmSource will unveil the new Cobalt OS, designed for smart phones, today. The new Palm OS supports telephony, of course, plus, push e-mail, a Web browser, integrated Wi-Fi and Bluetooth, and the ability to run more than one program at a time. Expect Cobalt phones in the first half of 2005.
  2. Governer Scharzenegger signed California’s anti-spyware bill into law yesterday. Critics say the law lacks teeth. Mostly it bans keystroke loggers and programs that send email or viruses – features not of spyware but trojan horses. Perhaps that’s because Utah’s more restrictive anti-spyware law is on hold pending a court review of its constitutionality.
  3. The city of Munich is moving forward to make Linux its desktop OS of choice, despite concerns over software patent issues in the EU. According to one expert, Linux violates 238 different US patents. Software patents are still not allowed by the EC but that may change soon. The city council makes its final vote today.

Tuesday’s Title Bout

Early morning news…
Cartoonist Thomas Nast, creater of Uncle Sam, was born on this day in 1840. Meatloaf is 57. So is supermodel Cheryl Tiegs.

  1. The first JPEG virus has been discovered in the wild. The virus, which takes advantage of a serious hole in Microsoft’s GDI+, infects your computer when you view a specially crafted JPEG image. The image installs winvnc and radmin and logs your machine into an IRC server to await orders. The virus was found Sunday on the newsgroups. Meanwhile security expert Tom Liston says Microsoft’s scanner is worse than useless. He offers his own here.
  2. Virgin is getting into the download music business – choose from any of one million songs for 99¢ – monthly subscriptions are $7.99. Virgin Digital is based on MusicNet but offers a completely rewritten jukebox program. Files are encoded in protected Windows media format. Branson has been busy – he also announced plans to offer zero-gravity flights for £100,000 .
  3. Microsoft announced Monday that it’s going to start charging if you want to use Outlook or Outlook Express to access your Hotmail account. If you’ve ever used Outlook to get your mail you’ll have until spring 2005 to get over it. The rest of you will have to start paying $19.95/year right now. The company says it’s to thwart spammers.
  4. Russians are pirating so many copies of Windows that Microsoft has decided to offer a low cost version to Russians to keep them from piracy, or worse, Linux. Russia is the fifth country to be offered Windows XP Starter Edition, a stripped down version of the operating system. It costs about $36 but the Russkies have to buy it with a new PC – standalone versions are not available. The Business Software Alliance and IDC reported that 97% of all software in the former USSR was stolen.
  5. According to USA Today, a little known branch of the Department of Defense is pointing spy satellites at the US. The National Geospatial-Intelligence Agency is paying particular attention to big events and public gatherings. Privacy rights activists ask who’s watching the watchers.
  6. Want to run a green website? Use Solar Data Centers for your host – they run their network centers entirely on renewable power.

Listen in tomorrow at 6:45a Pacific for my weekly news commentary on KGO 810 AM in San Francisco.

Friday Follies

All the news that's fit to rant aboutNews time…

  1. It’s only a matter of time now. A security expert released example code Wednesday that showed how to use the GDI+ hole in the Windows OS and other Windows programs to plant a malicious program on a computer using a JPEG file. Most anti-virus companies have updated their definitions to detect infected JPEG files – make sure you update your AV.
  2. Meanwhile Microsoft has announced it won’t update Internet Explorer unless you’re using Windows XP. The company said in a statement, “We do not have plans to deliver Windows XP SP2 enhancements for Windows 2000 or other older versions of Windows. The most secure version of Windows today is Windows XP with SP2. We recommend that customers upgrade to XP and SP2 as quickly as possible.” I guess Redmond is feeling the pinch.
  3. Sony has succumbed. In addition to supporting its proprietary ATRAC audio compression, new Sony music players will finally support MP3 files. I guess they realized you can’t have an iPod killer without it.
  4. Nokia has announced a new security camera that uses GSM, a cell phone technology, to phone home. When motion is detected the camera will send still images or video to any email address or cell phone.
  5. A recent survey of web users says nearly half couldn’t go two days without the net without suffering withdrawal symptoms. The “Internet Deprivation Study” from Yahoo and media group OMD said that respondents felt that they couldn’t function without the net. Participants in the study “experienced withdrawal and feelings of loss, frustration and disconnectedness when cut off from the online world.” They felt helpless, too, apparently having lost the ability to use the phonebook and newspapers to fetch information. They had to pay people $950 just to participate in the study.

Listen in Friday morning at 8:35a Pacific for my weekly news commentary on KFI 640 AM in Los Angeles.

Tune in tomorrow at 7:40a Eastern for my weekly visit with John Donabie on 1010 CFRB Toronto. And, of course, listen to my show every Saturday and Sunday, noon to 3p Pacific on KFI, Los Angeles.

I’ll be making an appearance at Notebookshop.com in Cerritos Saturday after the show from 4-7p. Please stop by and say hello!

Wednesday’s Whispered Innuendos

All the news that's fit to rant aboutHappy birthday Bilbo! President Lincoln issued the Emancipation Proclamation on this day in 1863. The US’s first automobile was built in 1893.
Today’s news includes a cell phone that detects halitosis and city wide Wi-Fi for Philly…

  • New PS/2The gaming wars heat up. Yesterday Nintendo announced pricing and availability for its successor to the best selling game machine of all time, the Gameboy. As expected the Nintendo DS will go on sale in the US November 21 for $149 list. Meanwhile, Sony has announced that it will start selling a slimmed down PS/2 for the same price starting November 1. The new PS/2 is one inch thick and weighs just a pound. The Sony hand-held isn’t going on-sale until this spring.
  • Silicon.com is reporting speculation that Google might be developing yet another browser. (Do we really need another?) The company registered gbrowser.com in April, has hired away key developers from the Internet Explorer team, and hosted last month’s Mozilla Developer Day.
  • The ACLU and the Privacy Rights Clearinghouse say Governer Schwarzeneggar should veto a California anti-spyware bill because it’s impossible to enforce and offers no serious penalties to spyware vendors.
  • Philadelphia has announced plans to turn the city into the world’s largest Wi-Fi hotspot. The mesh network would use street lights and thousands of antennas to light up 135 square miles at a cost of $7-10 million. Wonder how Comcast feels about the city offering free broadband?
  • Warer Brothers has agreed to participate in the Netflix/Tivo broadband movie trial. Must be because they know the Tivo is unhackable.
  • Siemans is developing a new cell phone that will tell you when you have bad breath. But you won’t be able to use it in some Mexican churches. They’re using telephone jamming systems developed by former Israeli military researchers. Maybe Kevin Spacey will buy a few jammers for the Old Vic – the gadget loving movie star has declared it a cell phone free zone. Reminds me of the time I was in a Broadway show and Aida Turturro’s cell phone rang endlessly. I got the distinct feeling she enjoyed the attention.

Monday’s Mardi Gras

All the news that's fit to rant aboutThe Cannes Film Festival launched on this day in 1946. JFK proposed a joint moon mission with the Russkies in 1963.
Happy birthday Alexander the Great, Sophia Loren, and Dr. Joyce Brothers!

  • Attacks on Windows PCs jumped sharply in the first six months of this year, with 1,237 new vulnerabilities, and 4,496 new Windows viruses discovered. According to the Internet Security Threat Report from Symantec, the number of monitored bot networks jumped from 2,000 to 30,000. Apparently virus authors are selling access to the bots to spammers. Each botted network ran an average of 2,000 machines, although the biggest bot network controlled 400,000 owned boxes. 50% of the infected machines were running within the networks of Fortune 500 companies.
  • Write a bug, get a job. The kid who is currently on trial for writing the Sasser worm, and is widely believed to have created the Netsky virus, has been offered a job at Securepoint. The company says it will train 18-year-old Sven Jaschan to be a security programmer. Jaschan is thought to be responsible for 70% of all the virus infections this year. He is facing up to five years in prison if convicted.
  • Microsoft is planning to release the source code for parts of Office to more than 30 world governments to reassure them over security. It’s not quite open source, but we’ll all benefit from someone else looking at the code.
  • Arizona Senator John McCain has proposed a law that would require TV broadcasters to shift to digital by 2009. The bill earmarks $1 billion to help low income consumers buy digital converters. FCC regulations mandate the shift to all digital broadcasting when 85% of a market can receive digital signals. The commission is considering including cable and satellite services in that mix, which would qualify most of the country today. The Feds are in a hurry to reclaim the low frequency spectrum currently occupied by broadcast television for what promises to be a very lucrative resale.
  • eMusic, one of the original legal music sites, is relaunching Wednesday. The site will focus on indy artists. The site will also feature recorded music from 150 live shows each month. Subscriptions to the site will cost $10 for 40 songs a month, 65 songs for $15, or 90 songs for $20.
  • Giving away 276 Pontiac G6 automobiles on Oprah last week has driven a lot of web traffic. Oprah’s site spiked an 864% increase the day after, and Pontiac jumped 636%.
  • Speaking of giveaways, Via is releasing open source disk scrubbing software that takes advantage of a hardware random number generator built into the company’s microprocessors. Tru-Delete is free and will run on any PC, but runs faster on a Via based PC. (Good thing because no other software does.)
  • Check your bike lock. Turns out the famous Kryptonite U-lock can be hacked with a ballpoint pen. The hollow shaft of a Bic pen can defeat the tubular cylinders used in some Kryptonite locks, including the Evolution and KryptoLok series. The New York series is safe.

Listen in tomorrow at 6:45a Pacific for my weekly news commentary on KGO 810 AM in San Francisco.

Tuesday to Toronto

All the news that's fit to rant aboutI‘m off to Toronto to visit TechTV Canada and my buddy John Donabie. But first, these stories…
Ice cream was first sold in New York on this day in 1786. Frank Lloyd Wright was born in 1867. The Source, the first public online service, opened for business in 1979.

  1. Something else to blame Microsoft for. According to Sandvine, 80% of all spam comes from Windows computers that have been infected by trojan horse viruses like SoBig and Migmaf.
  2. Apple posted a new security update yesterday that fixes the URI vulnerability discovered in Mac OS X last month. You can uninstall Paranoid Android now.

    Airport Express

  3. Apple also announced a smaller version of its Airport 802.11g wireless networking base station yesterday. The $129 Airport Express plugs directly into the wall and includes a mini-jack for your stereo so it can play back shared iTunes.
  4. Buy a Big Mac, get a song. Starting today you get a free song from Sony’s Connect music service with every Big Mac Extra Value Meal you buy at participating McDonald’s. The Big Mac Meal Tracks promotion will run through July. Wasn’t this supposed to be an iTunes promotion originally?

Monday Merry Mausoleum

All the news that's fit to rant aboutThe live transit of Venus webcast from down under begins tonight. Miss it and you’ll have to wait until 2012.
The first network color TV broadcast happened on this day in 1953. Ford began designing the Edsel in 1954. Before Who Wants To Be A Millionaire, there was the $64,000 Question. It debuted on this day in 1955.

Happy birthday Tom Jones and Prince.

  1. Give up your CrackBerry? You might have to. The US Court of Appeals hears arguments today that Research in Motion, BlackBerry’s Canadian parent, violated US patents. The plaintiff, NTP, seeks to bar the popular little wireless e-mail devices in the US. Fortunately I lost mine in a cab years ago and I’ve already recovered from the withdrawal.
  2. Steve Jobs is California’s richest CEO, despite only getting $1/year in salary. Jobs received $74.75 million in stock grants last year.
  3. Apple is expected to announce the launch of iTunes Europe on June 15.
  4. Pictures of Apple’s next G5 desktop have leaked out but no word on when it will ship. The next big Apple event is the Worldwide Developer’s Conference June 28.
  5. Pop-ups are back. According to CNET News, advertisers have figured out how to get around the popular Google Toolbar and its pop-up blocking. Other third party pop-up blockers are also less effective. I haven’t noticed any problems with browser based blockers in Mozilla, Firefox, and Safari, however.
  6. Cisco has released a patch for the Linksys WRTS54G 802.11g wireless router. The box has a flaw which gives an attacker access to the routers configuration page without a password. If you’re using a WRTS54G make sure your router’s firewall is turned on or download the patch from Cisco.

Listen in tomorrow at 6:45a Pacific for my weekly news commentary on KGO 810 AM in San Francisco.

Monday’s Meat Wagon

All the news that's fit to rant aboutJoy to the news, Saddam is captured.
The US Bill of Rights was ratified on this day in 1791. Thomas Edison patented the phonograph in 1877.

  1. The controversy continues over SCO’s claims of being clobbered by DDoS attacks last week. (We reported SCO’s version of the facts on Thursday.) As we mentioned then, the Groklaw blog was quick to cast doubt on SCO’s claims, saying their story didn’t make sense. But the Cooperative Association for Internet Data Analysis (CAIDA) issued a report on Thursday that seemed to confirm the attack. Groklaw recanted on Friday. At this point it seems that something did indeed happen to SCO’s servers, but that SCO was mistaken in characterizing it as a SYN flood.
  2. Meanwhile SCO investor, The Royal Bank of Canada, has changed the terms of its investment giving the bank veto power over the high contingency fees SCO is paying its lawyers.
  3. According to the New York Times in an article titled “PowerPoint Makes You Dumb” [free registration required], the Columbia disaster was partly caused by NASA’s reliance on PowerPoint. NASA engineers presented their findings on the wing damage in a slide “so crammed with nested bullet points and irregular short forms that it was nearly impossible to untangle.”
  4. Microsoft is removing a font that contains swastikas from Office 2003. New versions of Office will have a modified Bookshelf Symbol 7 font, current owners can remove the font with a patch from Microsoft. Historians will note that the swastika is an ancient symbol used long before Hitler co-opted it as the symbol of his National Socialist Party, but considering its modern connotations, it’s probably prudent to remove it.
  5. Now that Windows 98 is officially Not For Sale, Microsoft is planning to drop support for the operating system next month. However, in a recent survey, AssetMetrix reports that 80% of companies are still running some copies of 98 and 95 and that lack of support could mean security problems ahead.
  6. Are you ready for a billboard that changes its message depending on what radio station you’re listening to? It’s not a scene out of Blade Runner, according to the New York Times, it’s here now, in use on five billboards in California, and soon to come to a billboard near you.
  7. According to SlashDot, Patrick Pelissier has released the first open source operating system for Texas Instrument calculators. PedroM is UNIX-shell like, features task switching, and runs in 192k.

Thursday’s Threat Assessment

All the news that's fit to rant aboutIt’s news time.
FCC Chairman, Michael Powell, joins us today on The Screen Savers. The Concorde SST was first shown on this day in 1967. A Federal judge ordered Microsoft not to bundle IE4 in Windows in 1997.

  1. SCO’s site is down again, the victim of a massive DDoS attack. The corporate email, intranet, and customer support operations were also brought down. Several thousand computers were used in the SYN flood.
  2. AT&T has followed Time-Warner in announcing that it will offer Internet phone calling to its broadband customers. The VoIP service will roll out to three East coast markets first eventually expanding to 100 markets and 1 million consumers. VoIP grew 80% globally last year, carrying 11% of all international phone calls.
  3. Can you lose money in the Wi-Fi biz? Apparently Intel can. The company is taking an “embarassing” $600 million charge on its wireless chips. It announced yesterday that it’s reorganizing the division. The chief reason for the write-down: sluggish sales on Intel’s wireless chipset.
  4. It’s going to be a green Christmas. Online shoppers spent a record $8.5 billion last month – an increase of 55% from the year before. Books, DVDs, and music led the sales.
  5. Microsoft’s gift to you this holiday season: no December Windows Update. Is it because there are no security flaws to fix? No. A new flaw in Internet Explorer makes it easy to spoof web sites. So the next time you’re redirected to a phony EBay site, let’s say, to extract your credit card number, the fake site can stuff Ebay’s URL in the address bar making it indistinguishable from the real deal. Microsoft is looking into the report, saying that security firm Secunia should have notified them before publicizing the bug.
  6. A flaw in Yahoo! Mail that allowed malicious code to launch automatically when messages were opened has been fixed. A similar bug in Hotmail was corrected last week. In both cases, security firm Finjan discovered the flaw.
  7. Fortune Magazine named the iTunes Music Store its Product of the Year.
  8. It’s the end of line for the Jenni cam. Jenni Ringley, the woman who paved the way for, well, you know, has decided to shut down her site at the end of the year. Apparently PayPal is closing her account due to “frontal nudity” and if you can’t make a buck, what’s the point? Fortunately, you can still get your frontal nudity at Chris Pirillo’s Rent My Chest.
  9. Researchers have used the Hot or Not web site to prove that pretty women scramble men’s brains. Or at least their ability to plan for the future. Women, however, were unaffected by good looking men.

Tuesday’s Tiggywinkle

All the news that's fit to rant aboutStand by for tech news…
Eat your niblets, Clarence Birdseye was born on this day in 1886. Admiral Grace Hopper was born in 1906. Malkovich is 50. It’s Worf’s birthday, too. He’ll be born in 2340.

Doug Englebart demonstrated the first mouse at SRI on this day in 1968.

  1. The House has passed the CAN-SPAM Act. President Bush is expected to sign it into law before the end of the year.
  2. Even ATMs are vulnerable to worms… if they’re running Windows. According to SecurityFocus.com, ATMs from two banks were hit by the Nachi worm in August and we’re just learning about it now. The question is, why the hell are they running Windows?
  3. Coca-Cola is launching its own music download service next year. Who’s next? Midas Muffler?
  4. The new version of AdSubtract, a popular web ad blocking program, will block paid search results, as well.
  5. Steve Jobs tells Rolling Stone, “we don’t believe it’s possible to protect digital content” and there’s “this amazingly efficient distribution system for stolen property, called the Internet — and no one’s gonna shut down the Internet.” So how’d he talk the music industry into supporting the iTunes Music Store? “We don’t see how you convince people to stop being thieves unless you can offer them a carrot — not just a stick. And the carrot is: We’re gonna offer you a better experience . . . and it’s only gonna cost you a dollar a song.” Interesting interview. The first he’s done in a long time.
  6. That buck a song may be history soon. Consumers would like it to be lower, but music industry execs speaking at Monday’s iHollywood Forum’s Music 2.0 conference said they couldn’t afford to go lower, despite the fact that surveys show consumers would buy more at 79 cents a song.

Monday’s Meander

All the news that's fit to rant aboutTiptoeing through today’s timely tulips…
Eli Whitney, inventor of the cotton gin, was born on this day in 1765. Coaxial cable was patented in 1931. Jim Morrison would have been 60. John died 23 years ago today. Imagine.

  1. Microsoft is retiring Windows 98 December 15, claiming it necessary for compliance with a 2001 court order in the dispute with Sun over Java. Other Java enabled products that will be pulled from the shelves include SQL Server 7, Office XP Developer, and a number of Office 2000-related tools and patches.
  2. Yahoo is proposing a new, open, mail authentication system that would virtually eliminate anonymous spam if the big emailers adopted it. This is the system our entire panel supported on Friday’s Spam Attack Open Mike. Bravo Yahoo!
  3. IBM wins one. In a preliminary hearing in the SCO vs. IBM case, a Utah judge has approved two motions from IBM asking for more information. SCO now has 30 days to explain exactly how IBM and Linux have infringed on SCO’s copyrights.
  4. Kazaa is using the DMCA to try to shutdown the illicit Kazaa Lite K++. Sharman Networks, creators of the real Kazaa, is apparently contacting ISPs of servers that host K++ for download, threatening them with prosecution under the DCMA. Of course, you could probably find the program on P2P networks like, say, Kazaa.
  5. IBM will present a paper today claiming that they’ve found a way to use “molecular self-assembly” to build semiconductors. Interesting. That’s how I put on my hairpiece every morning.
  6. Google is asking a US court to rule on whether keyword ads are a trademark violation. American Blind and Wallpaper has threatened the Internet search engine with a lawsuit because it popped up competitors’ ads when users searched for American Blind.
  7. Yahoo has patched the flaw in Messenger we told you about last week. Download the new version from http://messenger.yahoo.com/messenger/security.

Thursday Thrombosis

All the news that's fit to rant aboutThe news is back, baby.

  1. The RIAA is at it again. 41 more lawsuits went out yesterday, another 90 received warning letters. Some file sharers have been deterred, Nielsen Net Ratings says there’s been a 53% drop in Kazaa users since the lawsuits started in June. But some sharers are unconcerned. USA Today quotes an Indiana University student who writes “The odds of being struck by lightning are about 90 times greater [than being sued], but I still go out in the rain.”
  2. Hewlett-Packard will announce a new hard drive based MP3 player at the Consumer Electronics Show in January, and will launch its own music download service to go with it. The company also plans a line of digital TVs. HP is following in the footsteps of Del and Gateway who have also moved aggressively into consumer electronics.
  3. There’s a security flaw in Yahoo! Instant Messenger. The buffer overflow exploit could open systems to hacks. Yahoo is working on a patch.
  4. Gartner says the new CAN-SPAM Act won’t deter spammers. The new federal law overrides 36 state laws, most of which are more effective and offshore spammers will be unaffected.
  5. Meanwhile, Microsoft has issued an “unreserved apology” to a British man the company accused of spamming, showing how difficult it can be to determine the identity of spammers.
  6. AOL is offering a PC for $299 to new users who sign up with the service for a year or more. The 1.7 GHz Celeron based “AOL optimized” system includes a monitor and color printer, but you can do better at Fry’s.
  7. Microsoft is planning to charge a license fee for any company shipping FAT formatted devices.
  8. The National Review is predicting that a speech by President Bush to commemorate the centenary of flight on December 17 will call for a return to the moon. Hoo rah!