March 29, 2007
Apple TV More Flexible Than Advertised
Apple TV,the device that connects computers, televisions, and the iTunes store is just landing into consumer homes. There are people who are apparently not afraid of voiding their warranties to do things to the unit that Apple probably wishes they wouldn't. Read all the juicy details here in PC World.
TJX Loses Data on 45.7 Million Credit/Debit Transactions To Hackers
Imagine Comic Book Guy from the Simpsons saying these words: "Worst data breach ever!" Those are words that are likely going through the heads of executives at TJX Companies. This is the parent corporation for TJ Maxx, Marshall's, and several other stores where at least 45.7 million credit and debit numbers were stolen. Executives at CardSystem Solutions are breathing a slight sigh of relief as someone has finally taken the crown from them. They lost 40 million records in 2005. The information came in a filing with the SEC. According to a story in Forbes, the FTC is investigating the case.
The breach or breaches occurred between July 2005 and ended in December 2006. TJX hired General Dynamics and IBM to investigate. The one cryptic note in stories on the data breach is that no one at the companies knows exactly what specific data was stolen, alluding to unnamed technology used by the hacker. What's up with that? It will be interesting to see what details come out of the investigation explaining this.
New Exploit Hits Windows
Microsoft is warning of a new zero day exploit that affects Windows 2000, XP, Server 2003, and, ahem, Vista. The exploit can get to individual machines by visiting a specially crafted web site or viewing a specially crafted email. It has to do with insufficient validation prior to rendering cursors, animated cursors, and icons. If the exploit is successful it will run code that compromises the user's machine, giving the exploiter the same rights as the user.
Microsoft says that Internet Explorer 7 running in protected mode will prevent the exploit from operating. Protected mode, if one remembers, is the annoying pop-up message asking if the user intended to perform the requested task. This feature in Vista can be turned off and probably will by some users.
There is a video of the exploit at work on YouTube. I found it through a story on the exploit in ComputerWorld. The link to the video is here. The error messages in Vista as it crashes looks very pretty in the new Aero interface. The next patch date for Windows is April 10th.
March 28, 2007
Star Wars Coming to Your Envelopes
It's a well known stereotype if not a fact that tech guys (and some girls) like science fiction, a lot. Sometimes that liking becomes an obsession with all things Star Trek or Star Wars. The Post Office is about to feed that obsession with a series of commemorative stamps featuring Star Wars characters and objects. Head on down to the Post Office web site where you can vote for your favorite stamp which will outlast the others in circulation. First day of issue is May 25th in the new 41 cent denomination. One question, though, why no Jar Jar Binks stamp? As all stamps on mail have to go through a cancellation process, having smudges of ink blobbed over old Jar Jar may be more satisfying than at first impression.
© 2007 USPS Used with permission
Yahoo to End Email Storage Limits
Yahoo is upping the limit on web mail for registered users by not having a limit. The company will lift space restrictions on all Yahoo user accounts over the next several months from the current 1GB of space. AOL did this last September, but AOL has 50 million mail users compared with Yahoo at 243 million. Microsoft is second with 233 million users and Gmail comes in at 62 million. Yahoo says you may never need to delete an email ever again. That was Google's line when it upped email limits to 2 GB, a notable announcement at the time. Sometimes it is a good thing to delete email. There's spam, after all. And sometimes, some mail is too sensitive to leave around. Just ask the Attorney General.
March 27, 2007
Vista Sells 20 Million Wows, Says Microsoft
Microsoft issued a press release yesterday highlighting the "strong global sales" in the debut of Vista. They claim sales exceeded 20 million licenses which is more then the 17 million for XP in the same period. Not so fast say a lot of commentators. There's a difference between licenses sold and licenses in the channel waiting to be sold to end users. There are also questions as to whether the number of licenses had a somewhat artificial bump based on the number of coupons redeemed for Vista for machines sold with XP during the holidays. Vista may have moved 20 million licenses, but not during the same comparable period five years ago. There are also other details that affect the comparison such as the number of machines sold then and now (lots more) which affect the actual market penetration of Vista. The announcement does nothing more than keep stockholders happy and maybe a few Wall Street analysts.
AT&T and Napster to Offer Cell Access to Music
So let me see if I understand this. AT&T is partnering with Napster to provide access to 3,000,000 songs to wireless customers with a compatible phone in exchange for those customers signing a two year wireless phone service agreement. The cost of the music, normally $14.95 a month, is covered with the the phone service agreement.
AT&T is also a long time partner with Yahoo! but rumors have it that AT&T doesn't need Yahoo! as much as it once did. Rumor also has it that AT&T is rethinking the financials of that partnership. Yahoo! also has a music service called Yahoo! Music Unlimited (only 2,000,000 songs here). Offering a music subscription program is apparently one place where AT&T is not extending its partnership with Yahoo!. Let's not forget that AT&T will be the exclusive carrier (for now) for the iPhone which ties into the iTunes store. iTunes is also not Yahoo!. This should get more interesting down the line as more deals are announced.
March 26, 2007
Wikipedia Gets (Serious) Competition
There's another new general purpose wiki available, Citizendium, or the citizens' compendium. It is founded by Larry Sanger. Sanger is often referred to as a co-founder of Wikipedia. That should give Citizendium some instant credibility.
He's setting up Citizendium in a different editorial mode from that of Wikipedia. For starters, all contributors must use their real names, thus avoiding the Essjay scandal that hit Wikipedia awhile back. The average Joe on the street can contribute, subject to editorial controls by those with subject area expertise. There is a higher level of control in the form of constables, individuals who enforce the rules "using common sense and leniency while following 'the rule of law'." So the editors enforce content accuracy while the constables make sure the participants play along collaboratively within Citizendium. For more on this structure, see the Citizendiums's Statement of Fundamental Policies.
There are over 1,000 articles in Citizendium with the potential for it to turn into something serious. For comparative purposes, here are links to Wikipedia's entry on Cat Coat Genetics and the Citizendium entry on Cat Colors. Even Wikipedia started off with little and grew large, large enough for problems to be newsworthy. Citizendium, it seems, wants to take the best parts of Wikipedia's model and turn it into something that is a bit more vetted for accuracy. It's FAQ says as much.
Citizendium seems to be as much a social experiment as it does as a compendium for knowledge. Will experts and non-experts work together in peace and harmony? Who knows. An online encyclopedia that strives for accuracy can be a worthy competitor to Wikipedia.
And while we're on the subject of competitors, check out Scholarpedia.org. This is a peer reviewed encyclopedia written by scholars from around the world. The content is mostly dense scientific material. But hey, why not. Maybe someday there will be the definitive article on the genetics that make cats look different. Meow.