Archive for the ‘Webtech’ Category

Ever have a reoccurring dream that you posted a blog entry, went out or to sleep for the night and when waking your blog had a life of its own?

What once was your last entry has now been reformatted into better looking typography, altered colors and evolved into a much more esthetically pleasing site as if it were a living organism.

Thanks, for lack of a better term, to Matthew Hockenberry and Ernesto Arroyo of Creative Synthesis, a non-profit organization in Cambridge, Massachusetts what once may have been a dream ain’t so much any longer.

They’ve created mouse-tracking software developed by Arroyo while at the Massachusetts Institute of Technology. To test the software 24 people who were asked to use a basic web site template for a blog. (using WP BTW)

Once the blog went live, control of the design was out of their hands. The software treated each feature as a “gene” that was randomly changed as a page was refreshed.

What once were “terrible designs” were transformed and more pleasing to the eye. More importantly the process could allow sites to stay up to date with changes in their users’ tastes and can result in designs that are more user-friendly than anything a human designer is likely to come up with.

All without the author ever hitting the edit button.

In one way the software would be great for websites that are still living in the mid-eighties with their garish graphics that turn your eyes to molten mush the second they load.

One the other hand is the worry of what happens when the spam bastards or the blog scrapers get their mischievious little paws on the stuff.

I shudder to think!

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Hey Dude, Where’s My Crime ?

Via the BBC:

Campaigns to persuade people to stop downloading pirated games or software from the internet are not working, a report suggests.

Two UK university researchers found that people did not see downloading copyrighted material as theft.

The findings are unwelcome news for the games industry, which says it loses more than £2bn annually from piracy.

No! Really!

Who’d a thunk it.

Those in the movie/gaming/music/software industries cry whine and wring their collective hands over lost revenue through piracy. I have zero sympathy for them and here’s why.

Pirated DVD’s here in the Philippines have reached the same level of quality as the originals. Sound is 6 channel, video is excellent, the only thing missing in some, but not all cases, are the extra features. And the frosting on this theft cake are availability. The Disney “Herbie” flic released this week in the States was available on the streets of Manila early this week. The same can be said for many of the recent Hollywood releases, Robot, Shrek 2 and Madagascar all appeared at or just before the US release date.

The only explaination for that are industry insiders are cashing in by leaking the masters, or first generation copies, and Fedexing them to “partners in piracy” in Asia or elsewhere. That also explains why the extra features are missing, those are added when the DVD’s are produced six months or so after the movie is released

So until they clean their own house I shed no tears!

Cross posted On the Third Hand

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A Viral “Beaver”

Nice Beaver!

We’re assuming that most of you are already familiar with the US phenomenon that is ‘Hooters”.

Well even if your not, your gonna love their new rival “Beavers”.

Whether you’re after the “Big Beaver” or the “Clam Strips” these ladies certainly know how to put the customer first.

It’d be a “dam” shame to miss out.

With a must see video.

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Thought I had died didn’t you? Well, no such luck. My service provider was hit with what I guessed to be a DoS attack. During the downtime it appeared that all sites useing my host were also down, thus the DoS theory.

My theory was off base by a bit, but the explaination for the outage raised a question in my mind. Background: My host is located in Manila, Philippines. It’s data center is in Dallas Texas. There is a time differential between the two of 12 hours, 11pm 10 Feb in Manila is 11am 10 Feb. in Dallas. Here is the explaination for the 18 hour outage:

“This was due to some mis-understanding with the Accounting Dept of our Data Center (ThePlanet) with regards to our account. Apparently, the situation was exacerbated by the time zone differences….”

Am I crazy or does that sound like the host didn’t pay their bill on time? If that’s the case why? If they paid at the exact minute of expiration Dallas time they’re shouldn’t have been an interuption in service. If the host paid on the exact minute Manila time they would have been 12 hours ahead of the expiration time. Strange. No?

Meanwhile I suffered blogging withdrawal symptoms: cold sweats, fever, a twitching thumb in constant search of the “space key.” And a pissed off wife because I made a pest of myself around the kitchen.

It was hell I tell ya!

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The Washington Post notes the second annual top ten list of spam e-mails for ’04 has been released. Produced by America Online it also claims the total number of spam e-mails has decreased from 2.4 billion in 2003 to 1.2 billion this year. Certainly good news, but you would be hard pressed to notice the decrease based on my inbox. Here is the top ten:

  • “We carry the most popular medications” (arthritis drug Vioxx appeared often).
  • “You’ve been sent an Insta-Kiss!” (phishing).
  • “You Have 17 New Pictures” (phishing).
  • “All orders are shipped from authorized locations” (pertains to online medications).
  • “2005 Digital Cable Filters” (claimed to unscramble digital cable channels).
  • “F R E E* 30 Second Pre-Qualification MORTGAGE Application.”
  • “HURRY HURRY Hot Stock on the RISE.”
  • “Breaking news on the Top Pick stock.”

AOL pointed out that spammers have gone “hardcore” and have become “sophisticated, nefarious, shadowy, devious, deceitful, sneaky, malicious and . . . dedicated.” — Gee… ya think? — But I ask you, when were they not “nefarious, shadowy, devious, deceitful, sneaky and malicious?” And for my two cents they were, and still are bastard children of transexual apes but I salute you, honestly I do, and in keeping with the above list, here is your Insta-Kiss!

My own personal spam trials and tribulations have led to closing comments on posts older than 10 days and installation of Laughing Lizards Three Strikes plugin. That act heralded a relative calm that lasted til this week when a few of the bastards bots worked around my digital fortress. That forced me to call in the heavy artillery, which stopped the newest onslaught in its tracks.

One other personal note. When looking at this list I noticed the Cavity and my E-mail inbox has never been hit by any of those listed. Good thing you say? Most assuredly I would agree but it sent my mind off on a wild tangent. It also could mean my humble efforts in the blogosphere carry the same significance as a bump on a pickle in the eyes those that contributed to the top ten list.

Be that as it may, Happy New Year to all, even spammers, but I still hold you in contempt.

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The web portal Yahoo has signed a ‘voluntary pledge’ made by 130 of China’s net-based companies to observe a ban on “politically unacceptable” content.

Reporters Without Borders Chairman Terry Semel in an open letter to Yahoo voices his displeasure and reminds them of previous support his group has given to Yahoo.

“Yahoo! has always defended its image as an ‘historic’ operator in the development of the web; a pioneer fiercely protective of its independence and that of the web sites hosted on its portals – including controversial web sites.”

“Reporters Without Borders has, in the not so distant past, defended [Yahoo] – when the controversy over the auction of Nazi memorabilia on one of your sites was in full swing in France. Our organisation did that in the name of the total freedom from which the internet should benefit.”

“Reporters Without Borders also fights for the right of Chinese Internet users and operators to enjoy that same freedom. And it has to be recognised that this is not the situation today… (we) ask you to seriously consider revoking this decision and withdrawing your signature, and urge you to reject this practice of self-censorship of the content of your web site.”

Oops, that can’t be good for Yahoo’s bottom line.

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Or lack thereof, reprinted from the Manila Bulletin

Professor P.I. Flashbulb
Two years ago President GMA directed all government agencies to put up a website “that would provide basic public information”, a move that was greatly applauded because this means that information about a specific government agency would be faster and readily available to those who need it. Just recently, the National Computer Center said that as of June 30, 2004 99.5% or 373 out of 375 government agencies have their own websites.

When I randomly checked the websites of our government agencies, here’s what I found out:

The first site that I checked was the Office of the Vice President (www.ovp.gov.ph), the site was down. Maybe the server was just under maintenance.

What surprised me were the next five sites that I randomly clicked from the list of government links at http://www.gov.ph/govlinks/officeofpres_departments.asp

The Metro Rail Transit (www.mrt.gov.ph), the Philippine Coast Guard (www.pcg.gov.ph), the National Intelligence Coordinating Agency (www.nica.gov.ph), the National Security Council (www.nsc.gov.ph) and even the Supreme Court (www.supremecourt.gov.ph) websites were all down. I first thought that these agencies are using just one server, but upon checking I found out that they are using different providers.

I continued surfing and here are the additional things that I found out:

The website of the Sandiganbayan (www.sandiganbayan.gov.ph) was last updated on April 5, 2004 and is still to be completed. “Under Construction” sign is everywhere.

The Department of Transportation and Communication (www.dotc.gov.ph) website’s “News” link was last updated on August 25, 2003.

The National Telecommunications Commission (www.ntc.gov.ph) website’s “What’s New” link was last updated on July 5, 2004.

The Land Transportation Office (www.lto.gov.ph) was last updated on April 2004.

The Department of Science and Technology’s (www.dost.gov.ph) website was last updated on July 5, 2004

The National Bureau of Investigation (www.nbi.gov.ph) site was last updated on March 25, 2004

The “What’s New” link of the website of Science and Education Institute of the DOST (www.sei.dost.gov.ph) is dated March 28, 2004

The “News Bulletin” of the Bureau of Immigration (www.immigration.gov.ph) is dated November 2003.

The biggest surprise of all that made me decide to stop surfing the Philippine government links is the Manila International Airport Authority website. When I clicked http://www.miaa.gov.ph I was automatically redirected to a site that says the name has already expired. I later found out that the domain miaa.gov.ph has expired June 28, 2004. This is an epitome of negligence to the highest level. This is not only the fault of the IT people but of everyone from MIAA who has access to the Internet. The MIAA should do something immediately and avoid this kind of embarrassment from happening again.

All these things make me doubt the commitment of the government in implementing the directive of the President two years ago. Yes the websites are there but they need to be updated in order to be effective or at least they need to be UP and RUNNING in order to be included in the 99.5% the NCC is bragging about. To Madam President, Ma’am don’t believe them let someone check it for you.

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Researchers at Hewlett-Packard Labs have made a study of Weblogs by mapping the flow of information between blogs. The results run counter to what you may expect. The general perception is the Instapundits and Wizbangs of the world feed ideas to us lesser known Blogkeepers. The reality appears to be the inverse, new subjects posted by us lesser knowns make it to the digital realm up to three days before the most widely read blogs. To add insult to injury, 70% of the time the original source receives no attribution.

[…] they discovered that topics would often appear on a few relatively unknown blogs days before they appeared on more popular sites.

“What we’re finding is that the important people on the Web are not necessarily the people with the most explicit links (back to their sites), but the people who cause epidemics in blog networks,” said researcher Eytan Adar.

These infectious people can be hard to find because they do not always receive attribution for being the first to point to an interesting idea or news item.

Indeed, the team at HP Labs found that when an idea infected at least 10 blogs, 70 percent of the blogs did not provide links back to another blog that had previously mentioned the idea.

Some of their research is online at the Blog epidemic analyzer “a Java program that reveals the implicit and inferred links between blogs in an interactive, visual form.”

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This isn’t good news. Unless your the conspiratorial type and still cling to the belief that “your guy” really did win in Florida 2000. In that case you may have an “Election Erection.” For the rest its more proof that electronic voting isn’t ready for Prime Time yet.

SAN DIEGO An unknown number of voters were turned away from San Diego County polls this morning [Tuesday] as poll workers ran into problems starting up elements of a new electronic voting system.

Poll workers at many polling places were stumped when they turned on electronic card readers and were faced with an unfamiliar start-up screen, officials with the San Diego County Registrar of Voters said. The problem did not affect the voting process itself and will not affect vote totals, Registar Sally McPherson told reporters.

And nobody had the forethought the number of “turned away” voters might be an issue, or didn’t care, or didn’t want to know…. Me thinks some poll workers brains had unfamiliar start-up screens. But wait there’s more….

One Maryland polling place had to switch to paper ballots Tuesday because its new electronic voting machines didn’t work. State elections supervisor Linda Lamone said technicians expected to have the problem fixed quickly.
Voters also had to start out using paper ballots in Georgia’s Effingham County. Chris Riggall, a spokesman for Secretary of State Cathy Cox, said county officials apparently forgot to program the encoders — devices used to tell ballot access cards, which voters insert into the machines, what ballot to display.

A security issue also arose in Georgia.

Georgia Tech student Peter Sahlstrom said he found 10 Diebold terminals sitting unprotected in the lobby (itals mine) of the school’s student center Monday. Sahlstrom, 22, photographed the machines in their unlocked cases.

And the 228 year old American Democracy can also take this kick in the seat of the pants.

In November’s presidential election, at least 50 million people will vote on touch-screens, compared with 55 million using paper, punch cards or lever machines, according to Washington-based Election Data Services.

Wow, thats almost a majority. Does that leave the possibility that our next President may be named ” Pres. Corrupted Data.”

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This subject continues to get media play, and I suspect it will for the foreseeable future. The subjects previous incarnations include the unreliability of touchscreen voting machines. In Nov.’03 a story about the Ohio attempt at the electronic age. Even the US Military attempted to vote by Internet but retreated its position when confronted by experts that saw a disaster in the making. The news hasn’t been all bad, also in Nov. ’03 was a story about how the Australians have succsessfully implemented an open source electronic voting system, and young Scott Ritchie has offered to modify the Aussie example and provide the results to California free of charge.

This edition of E-voting started life with last nights episode of TechTv’s “The Screen Savers” and a discussion of E-voting and how easy it is for election officials, political parties, and individual voters to hack into these vote counting systems. Virtually anyone with the correct codes and prior knowledge of them can designate whomever they desire as the winner. As part of the discussion “VoteSecurity” was given as a good source of the problems and solutions to the electronic voting revolution. More importantly, and the reason for this post is a graphic, real time display of how a electronic system is easily fooled. The extended entry (below the fold) is taken verbatum from the “Demo” page. The left screen of the “voting machine” is the voters console as he punches his vote. The right screen is the backend of the system where election officials monitor an election and validate results.

My assessment after using “the voting machine” is anyone with the knowledge of a very simple code sequence could turn any Democracy into a Banana Republic. For further study I suggest following the links provided in a search of the Johns Hopkins University website who, along with Rice University has been at the forefront of research into electronic voting systems.

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