Showing posts from 2010

How to buy an Android Tablet Computer

The Digital Reader explains how to separate the good tablets from the bad. Worth your time if you are thinking about e-book readers and iPad alternatives.

$105 Android tablet

$105 Android tablet. $105, delivered.

Privacy Protection against data-scrapers

Interested in removing your data from Internet identity search sites like PeekYou? Read this Wall Street Journal article on data scrapers.

The Obsolescence of the Middle Class

I wish I didn't trust this essay on the true cause of joblessness.

Bad Science, Bogus Medical Research

The Atlantic has an article on a medical researcher who specializes in analyzing the quality of science in medical research. Worth a read.

When the going is tough, stay calm and cheat

The British website Kings of War has an absolutely wizardly idea to solve the Afghan problem; peacefully phone bomb them.

Fill Afghanistan with smartphones, provided free for the recipient providing a biometric registration (so we who who has them). Since they're digital, Echelon and similar systems can automatically listen in and flag conversations with news about Bad Things and Bad People.

It plays to our strength, not our weakness (our concern for the lives of our troops) and also provides us a propaganda channel to the rest of the population, and if it helps us liberalize Afghanistan, all the better.

How stolen credit cards are sold

Here's a mind-blowing visit to a website which sells stolen credit cards and personal identity info.

Website to debunk myths lists ten websites which help you confirm or deny the red-hot urban myth Aunt Minnie just sent you in a breathlessly excited e-mail. Whether you tel Aunt Minnie how to check before forwarding is, well, up to you.

Smart phone users; how much data do you use?

Data usage for a smartphone user

An Open Letter to Keith Olbermann on being misled by Political Scientists

(Regarding his 6/03 #4 story on Countdown).

Dear Keith:

You've been misled.

Obama's Energy Advisor Carol Browner (an English major and lawyer) is not well read in nuclear devices, and neither is Michio Kaku (a theoretical physicist, not a weapons effect physicist, and a very political scientist with a pronounced hysterical anti-nuclear bias). I wish you had chosen a credible source, such as an academic from the mining schools in Colorado or New Mexico, if no weapons effect expert (e.g., Cary Sublette, easily found by checking WHOIS.NET for the owner data for was available.

Our atomic tests show that drilling below 400' the ocean floor, emplacing a 100 kiloton device and exploding it would not result in a crater, and below 1,200' the surface of the ocean floor would not even create a surface bubble. See…

The Senior PC with Linux

I have a question I'd like to ask of techno-seniors: Which Linux apps (besides the obvious, those labelled as magnifiers and such) would be superior for Seasoned Citizens? Which distro has the best interface?

Saw this ad (below) in Readers' Digest and it led me to wonder how much better Linux could be for folks who are new to PCs.  The price of a rebuilt PC at FreeGeek is appealing to folks who know they're not making any more money and must live on what they've earned in a lifetime of work, and the anti-virus, anti-spyware, updating, and general stability of Ubuntu-Kubuntu-Lubuntu are far superior to Windows, as is the Ubuntu Software Center.

Facebook privacy leak du jour


Will a day go by _without_ a Facebook privacy breach?

Facebook's new features secretly add apps to your profile

Tabbed browsers, like IE7, Opera, Firefox and Chrome are wonderful things, but dangerous if you use Facebook, for that social networking business is now shoehorning business apps into your profile if you do so little as log into Facebook then visit another site while Facebook is still open.

MacWorld adds:
You don't have to have a Facebook window open, you don't need to be signed in to these sites for the apps to appear, there's no notification, and there doesn't appear to be an option to opt-out anywhere in Facebook's byzantine privacy settings.OK, from now on, I will use one web browser (Chromium? Firefox? IE?) to visit Facebook, purge its cookies and cache on every shutdown, and my favorite browser (Chrome) to browse to everywhere else. That will keep Facebook in its place.

Ceng wang ka - Automated Chinese WiFi hacking kits

$24 in China will get you a WiFi hacking kit designed to automate cracking WEP and WPA passwords. As the Network World article reveals:

To crack a WEP key, the applications exploit weaknesses in the protocol that have been known for years. For WPA, they capture data being transmitted over the wireless network and target it with a brute-force attack to guess the key.
Want privacy? Go to WPA2 security, or use a long WPA password with upper case, lowercase, numbers and punctuation. WPA2's a lot better...

Radio Shack catalogs on line

Need to find an old Radio Shack catalog? Don't head to the garage (the XYL threw them out, anyway, during spring cleaning). Instead, see them online at

Facebook doesn't delete what you remove

Think twice about putting anything controversial on social media; think three times about posting to Facebook. A simple test shows, even a year after removal, that content is still sitting where it can be accessed on Facebook servers.

The file with this kitten was removed over a year ago, yet its link still shows you the content on Facebook servers.

Fat good for you, flour bad

Processed carbohydrates, which many Americans eat today in place of fat, may increase the risk of obesity, diabetes and heart disease more than fat does—a finding that has serious implications for new dietary guidelines expected this year, or so says Scientific American.

Go ahead, have another Voodoo doughnut.

Yet Another Facebook Privacy Leak

Facebook leaks even more information about you than we thought; it will tell anyone what events you plan to attend. Anyone.

You can also go to enter your name at upper right, and have it search Facebook for everyone with that name. Once you find yours, then you have your Facebook ID number, and can search all of Facebook for information filed under that ID number, a good way to check to see what is publicly available about you to complete strangers.

Million-plus Facebook accounts for sale by cybercrook

It may be time to change your Facebook password, as a cybercrook is offering one and a half pwned million Facebook accounts for sale; all of them, just a few.

Hotmail's social networking busts your privacy

Woody Leonhard, a long-time Windows spelunker, has overturned Yet Another Micro$oft privacy blooper. In his weekly report in Windows Secrets, he reveals Hotmail and Windows Live shows the public waaay too much about its users.
In its rush to take on Facebook and Google Buzz, Microsoft is now collecting and displaying personal information on your Hotmail page — information you may never have wanted to broadcast.

Exactly how it's mining this information is something of a mystery, but if you use Hotmail or Windows Live, it's time to review your privacy settings — lest something you said or did comes back to haunt you.
The picture at left shows what folks saw about one user, things potentially embarrassing, career-limiting, or might get them fired. Maybe it might not be a bad idea to see what Micro$oft shows other people about you?

Kobo e-reader PDF and PDB only

Shucks. The new Kobo eReader will not read anything except EPUB and PDF, which dampens my enthusiasm, considering how many MOBI and DOC file I've bought.  Their support folks answered my query with:
Hi John,

No, at the outset, only PDF and ePub will be supported. If we later make support available for other formats, you will be able to download an app upgrade.

Shayna, Apr 16 11:37 (EDT):
The Kobo Team

Factoid du Jour re electric vehicles

The exec who's the trail boss on electric vehicles at GM just revealed something interesting about electrics:

Bly noted one particular struggle GM and other carmakers face as they slowly transition their fleets from gasoline-powered vehicles to EVs: the extreme demands of climate control.“It takes as much energy to keep a human warm in the northern climates as it does to push the entire vehicle down the road at posted speeds,” Bly said. “It’s not that the battery isn’t necessarily capable, but it’s where we and other OEMs decide to spend that energy.”Also, GM hasn't figured out how to recycle the humongous lithium batteries used in the Volt.  Lithium batteries burn really, really well; ground-shipping laptop and cellphone batteries for recycling requires carefully covering the contacts to avoid fire risk, and there's a ban on shipping large spare lithium batteries in checked luggage and the air cargo shipment rules are stringent
I've found that no one will pay to accep…

Update on the Kobo eReader

UPDATE FROM YESTERDAY: suggested yesterday's posted eReader from Kobo is based on the - if so, it runs Linux, which is all the better.

If true, it not only reads

EPUB (the open standard e-book format, really just ZIPped HTML) andPDF (Adobe's proprietary, but popular, standard, easily created from Ubuntu Linux and OS X out of the box, or from Windows with freeware), 
but might also handle these popular e-book formats:

DOC  (handling Word DOC format plus PDF makes it a business tool, too)FBHTMLMOBIPRCRTF, and TXT
I will write to Kobo and ask.

That aforementioned e-book website also suggested Borders would retail the eReader in the U.S.; again, all the better.

Kobo, a CAN$ 149 e-book reader next month


Wow! A CAN$ 149 e-book reader with Bluetooth and an SD Card Slot which reads EPUB and PDF files. This is the same screen size as the original Kindle, although the Kobo's frame size is smaller (no keyboard).

Thick: 10mm / 0.4"
Weight: 200 grams / 7 oz.
Frame: 120x184mm / 4.7"x7.2"
Screen: 152mm / 6" (diag.) 8 level greyscale e-paper
Battery: 8,000 pages, or 2 weeks between charges
Connectivity: Bluetooth for file transfer plus SD Cards (no SDHC cards) and USB cable
Customization: Skins in multiple colors and textures, so you can distinguish His from Hers.

Indigo in Canada is taking orders but US shipments are not slated until this summer.

This is a real game-changer; although the design is imperfect (no backlight, no bookmarking), both are easily overcome (clip-on LED for reading in bed, and Post-ItsTM or paper notebooks for bookmarks).

That price is not likely to drift up, as Marvell's Moby (aimed at education) prototype is priced …

When radiation is good for you and explain how radiation in small doses stimulate your immune system, and prevent cancer from taking hold. Hard to argue with the multiple studies and hard numbers.

A Better Open Office for Windows, Mac OS X and Linux

Go-oo is a derivative of OpenOffice with many enhancements. It includes a more polished interface, better interopability, more support for various formats and it is tweaked to run faster.
- Go-oo has built in OpenXML import filters and it will import your Microsoft Works files. Compared with up-stream OO.o, it has better Microsoft binary file support (with eg. fields support), and it will import WordPerfect graphics beautifully. If you are reliant on Excel VBA macros - then Go-oo offers the best macro fidelity too. If you expect your spreadsheets to calculate compatibly, or you get embedded Visio diagrams in your documents, you'll want Go-oo.
- Go-oo's user interface is more familiar, with lots of small pieces of polish. We have built-in (working) multimedia integration on Linux, a beautiful solver component, and your Chinese should look sane. We also integrate with your system better by default: eg. enabling native file-selectors on Linux.
- From first-time startup,…

CLEAR clearly unclear, again

A follow-up story to:, in which many and various blunders at CLEAR leave us without Internet service for > 4 days.
Come home tonight after a wonderful movie, HOW TO TRAIN YOUR DRAGON, and went to Google Mail; instead of my friendly pile of 9,947 messages, every PC in the house is stuck at Clear's welcome screen, shoehorned in by their proxy servers. Every web page anywhere, on every browser, on every machine, is replaced with the picture you see below. Can't get anything else.

Now, it's a pretty page, but we don't pay for a 3 Mb/sec high-speed internet connection just so that one web page can be served up really, really fast. And, their instructions to clear it on said web page, well, can you guess how effective they are?

So, luckily, Clear-as-Mud Internet hasn't quit taking calls, yet, so off we go to the phone. Agrapinal assures me he has the solution, and has me do exactly what Mark …

Portland Wireless Data Performance Compared

PC World published a new multi-city survey which shows Verizon's 28% faster here than last year's testing. Here's the results for Portland, showing all four carriers, their data speed and reliability, for both laptops and smartphones:

Put another way, here are bar charts comparing the carriers and their Portland speeds:

It's interesting that T-Mobile outperforms Verizon in download speed, especially given the price differential between the services.

Best US Broadband Provider Slacking Off

Now, I know a few folks who like the Internet.  The XYL and Yours Truly just had a leetle problem with our broadband (settled last night after our fifth call to our current provider, who CLEARly had not troubleshot the problem with their equipment well).

So it is with dismay that I read Verizon, the provider of FIOS, is cutting back expansion plans. Their FIOS system is not only technically superior, but also, according to everyone I know who uses it, is purely addictive and the best darned broadband ever.

DSL Reports, a reliable source for broadband industry information, provides cutback details:
Verizon's essentially cutting and running on additional deployment plans, leaving a very large chunk of their footprint on last-generation DSL and copper-based voice networks.

(Industry analyst) Burstein tells Broadband Reports that he doesn't see Verizon expanding any further (with the exception of major cities where they've signed franchise agreements) unless they get money from…

CLEAR internet service failure

Beware of CLEAR, they're anything but.

Two days ago: 7AM Thursday, no internet (as per the XYL who didn't tell me).
Called CLEAR @ 10AM, report problem when I found no dial tone on the phone.
Perform every troubleshooting step, technician diagnoses problem as being in the tower site equipment. Says they will send someone to the site. No idea when that will occur.
Called again Thursday evening, was told once the technician is dispatched, it takes a day for that to occur.

Yesterday: No CLEAR internet service. The XYL called tech support, and was told there was no problem; and then they closed. Unable to chat with their chat system with two cellphones and three cellphone browsers (including Opera Mobile).

Today, day three: No CLEAR internet service. Cycled all equipment, performing all steps prescribed by CLEAR's website:
Powered down the modem for 120 seconds.Re-positioned the CLEAR Home Modem until it has 3 light ‘bars’.Shut off the computer.Connected the CLEAR Home modem di…

View an ad, get a virus

cNET, a web division of CBS, documents how simple it is to get a virus if you use Windows to surf the web.  Web servers from Yahoo, Google and other webvertising companies automatically delivered ads that looked for Windows and out-of-date software, and infected computers automatically:
Users don't need to click on anything to get infected; a computer becomes infected after the ad is loaded by the browser, Avast (Ed. note: A trusted antivirus company) said. Solution: Get Ubuntu Linux. I just installed the latest version on my PCs, and it automatically found everything in my Lenovo ThinkPad and HP Pavilions, found what space was available for Linux, and left my Windows intact; when I boot, I have a choice of Linux or Windows.

Linux can automatically connect to the Windows side of the hard drive, and use pictures, movies, movies and Office files you created or downloaded previously. It can even run World of Warcraft. Updates are automatically offered, and downloaded when you're re…

Amateur Radio Course/Exams on the South Side

Amateur radio's evolved greatly in the last century, and in that evolution, saved many lives, and advanced the art of communications. FM, television, digital, Ethernet, satellite radio and cellular are all innovations pioneered by radio amateurs.  A pocket sized two-way amateur radio can talk to all seven continents and the space station.
Amateur radio helps recovery effort today in Haiti and Chile, and provided yeoman's service in the recovery from Hurricane Katrina. When, not if, the major subduction zone strikes the Pacific NW, amateur radio will give communications when cellular and landline phones fail from overload and facility damage.
Local publicly-spirited amateurs are offering two-day classes, free, with the only charge $12 for the Federal Communication Commission to receive the exam result. Pass the test, and you've got the first of three amateur licenses; and there's no Morse code on any exam.
The format and times will be the same, one week apart..

Friday even…

Amtrak enters the 20th century reveals Amtrak's looking for proposals to put WiFi on all its trains. Gee, how tough could that be... when Verizon sells a portable hotspot you can put in your pocket

Put three of these on each end of each car (channels 1, 6 and 11 are the only 2.4GHz channels which don't interfere with each other) for each carrier, and the job's done, ya think?

Better Living Through Oxygenation

Want to sober up quicker? Use oxygen, as these Japanese researchers have proven.

Powell's Technical Bookstore moving two blocks west

The Portland Business Journal reports Powell's Technical Bookstore is moving to a smaller space across the street from Powell's City of Books in downtown Portland. The trend towards online book buying and e-books by geekdom was cited as a reason of the 40% fall-off in brick-and-mortar technical book sales.

Employees were notified this morning, and the transition should complete by the first of September.

Amateur Radio support for U Miami Med School Haiti volunteers

Image details how amateur radio operators provided communications when satellite communications to Haiti failed. Yes, satellite phones failed in Haiti, just like they failed in New Orleans.

Entrepeneurs Needed

Robert X. Cringely the Third, who, for a time, lived in Bend and produced technical industry video for PBS (Triumph of the Nerds among others) as well as a column in the influential Infoworld, has a new project which he describes at his website.
He wants to travel across America, and interview entrepeneurs, preferably outside of Pugetopolis, the Bay Area, and Boston, for a series of a dozen TV documentaries. To find them, another website collects your suggestions and then your comments and votes on which are most worthy.
Know someone unheard-of who's invented something vital? Tell Bob

IARU Region 2 and Radio Club de Chile Request Amateurs to Keep Emergency Frequencies Clear

A bulletin received through the ARRL:
A massive 8.8 magnitude earthquake hit Chile at 0634 UTC on February 27, 2010, triggering a potential tsunami. IARU Region 2 and the Red Chilena Nor Austral de Servicio (RECNA) have suggested Amateur Radio operators monitor the following emergency communications frequencies for traffic pertaining to the earthquake and tsunami: 3.738, 3.750, 7.050, 7.100, 14.200, 14.350, 21.200, 21.350, 28.300 and 28.500 MHz.IARU Region 2 Area Emergency Coordinator Jorge Sierra, LU1AS, reports that there is now traffic at frequencies of 40 meters from people seeking information from people in Chile: "We would appreciate if amateurs would leave free the frequencies used by RECNA, as well as the usual IARU Region 2 frequencies on in 20, 40, and 80 meters."In addition to the above frequencies, you may also want to listen to the worldwide emergency communication Center of Activity frequencies: 14.300, 18.160 and 21.360 MHz. Other suggested monitoring frequenci…

FBI closes Ameritrax murder cases too quickly

An eminent and respected microbiologist analyzes the FBI investigation into the 2001 Ameritrax murders, and finds it should not have been closed before the National Academy of Sciences report, plus many other suspicious actions on the part of the Bureau. Worth your time to read, if you wonder what the Feebs are up to.

Make Ubuntu Linux look like XP, Win7
is a highly subversive web page.

You can't buy Windows XP at retail any more, yet not everyone is gung-ho about scrapping their functional machines and replacing them with brand new (the point of new versions of Windows, y'know; the new programs need the new OS which needs new hardware, so Microsoft gets lots of love from software developers and hardware manufacturers).

However, is this in the best interest of the consumer? Want to shell out for a new PC every three years?  Instead, you could learn Linux which runs much faster (as well as being much more secure and stable); but will Aunt Minnie want to?

If you're reading this blog, you're probably an early adopter, out on the bleeding edge of computing, but because of that you run the risk of being sucked into supporting your less-PC-saavy kin and friends; those folks want anything new to look like XP, yet could care less about what's under the hood.

Hence the link to http://ubunt…

Prey protects your laptop (somewhat) from theft for free shows you in a web video (transcript also available) how to configure a free program, Prey, to holler at you when your computer is stolen, then used on the web.  As a free service, which works for Windows, Linux and Mac, I can't see how anyone would not want to use Prey or something like it.  Now, Lojack for Laptops is a more robust service and would survive a wipe-and-reload (unlike Prey), but, well, it isn't free.

Prey needs either a service for you to alert the laptop is gone, or it can watch a web page; when that web page is missing, Prey assumes the laptop is stolen, and starts e-mailing to you. Being me, well, I prefer using both, and find to be a very good place to create a web page for each computer you want Prey to watch.

Firefound is another free tracker for laptops gone astray, but relies on Mister Perpetrator using Firefox; if he uses Chrome, Safari or IE, Firefound is silent.

And, a l…

Why donating money, not goods, is essential to remote disaster operations is an incredibly excellent explanation of why small penny-parcel lots of donated goods hinder, not help, relief efforts. If you have anything less than a semi-trailer full to donate, please consider donating it to a local charity where it can do the most good, instead of trying to send it overseas. There's even more good reasons why, but the blogger certainly provides enough for one day's thought.

TSA training aid


Two centuries of warming leads to forest growth in northeastern states

Looks like the two centuries of warming that's documented in the US has also led to Northeastern US forest growth which is capturing carbon. Some like it hot, some like it cold, but Nature may just have a balancing mechanism to offset our recovery from The Little Ice Age.

Is there a secret Toyota Prius accelleration problem

UPDATE: A NY Times blog discussesToyota's failure to document test procedureas a problem. Engineering and testing requires documenting _everything_.

Steve Wozniak, one of the most influential engineers of our time, has reported a problem with his 2010 Toyota Prius that Toyota denies. Anyone else experience this?

And, Transportation Secretary LaHood admits Toyota is a little 'safety-deaf' and resistant to the idea of, well, problems with their products.

(in)Security for mobile phones

Want a secure, untappable mobile call? There's over a dozen products which *say* they can give you that security, but only three of them couldn't be cracked by one coder in half an hour.

Twenty dollar donation earns 74 times value in RPG e-books

Thanks to BoingBoing for posting a link to a real deal; donate $20 to Doctors Without Borders' Haitian relief, get $1,481 in 120 RPG e-books. Some duds; some superb.

Be Very Careful at ATMs

Here's a security blog which shows a very professional 'skimmer'; a device which attaches to an ATM card slot, and both rips off the data from the ATM card magnetic stripe AND the PIN card you punch in. Be VERY careful at ATM machines from now on to make sure it does not have a skimmer attached, and watch your bank account balance diligently!

German government warns against using M$ Internet Explorer

The German government has warned web users to find an alternative browser to Internet Explorer to protect security. The warning from the Federal Office for Information Security comes after Microsoft admitted IE was the weak link in recent attacks on Google's systems. Microsoft says the security hole can be shut by setting the browser's security zone to "high", although this limits functionality and blocks many websites. However, German authorities say that even this would not make IE fully safe. Graham Cluley of anti-virus firm Sophos, told BBC News that not only did the warning apply to 6, 7 and 8 of the browser, but the instructions on how to exploit the flaw had been posted on the internet. "This is a vulnerability that was announced in the last couple of days. Microsoft have no patch yet and the implication is that this is the same one that exploited on the attacks on Google earlier this week," he said.Full details at…

1/3 laptops fail in 3 years analyzes laptop failure with some interesting results. Worth the time to read.

Netbooks have a 20% higher failure rate than laptopsToshiba, ASUS fail the leastHP fails the mostAnd, if you think that PDF loaded too slowly, try Sumatra as an alternative to Adobe Reader.
Open Source (see previous article on the subject)
1.2MB installed instead of 335MBPortable; runs from a USB Flash Drive

Software you can trust - and it's free

There are a lot of websites offering 'free downloads' of software for Windows nowadays. A lot offer you what's called 'shareware' or 'crippledware'; you install it and then some important features (like, oh, say, saving) don't work until you upgrade by buying the next version. Some, even, come with 'phone home' programs which report on your use of the Internet.

Not to say all sites are bad; and screen for such nonsense. But how do you really know what you download is good?

Answer: Use open source programs, where the programmers reveal all the programming files which went into the program. Other programmers therefore can see what it does, and they will (and have) scream bloody murder if there's badness involved. has a list pre-screened for Windows. If you don't find it there, look elsewhere in Sourceforge, part of the ThinkGeek media empire which includes the well-known Slashdot I…

New TSA logo

BoingBoing points to a security expert's competition to design a new logo for the TSA.

Given theirlegendaryincompetence, I do like the one at left, but that would be unkind to clowns.

No Wonder We're So Secure

A 'public-private' partnership between the FBI and private industry has been as successful, evidently, as the rest of the Security Theater spawned in the wake of the attacks on the Twin Towers.

InfraGard is an information sharing and analysis effort serving the interests and combining the knowledge base of a wide range of members. At its most basic level, InfraGard is a partnership between the FBI and the private sector. shows the registry information of the website for Oregon Infragard; a 404'd website, despite its link from the Infragard official website.

Another sterling example of how well the Feds share data.