Saturday, December 31, 2011

SOPA Track

From Mashable:
SOPA Track will tell you if your elected officials have expressly stated their support or disapproval of SOPA/PIPA along with the amount of money they’ve raised from pro and anti-SOPA organizations. An office phone number and links to each Congressperson’s social media profiles are also included.

I'm not too certain about the accuracy of SOPA Track regarding their allocation of contributors to "For SOPA" or "Against SOPA." Even if it is not as accurate as we would all like it to be it is a great start and kudos to Randy Meech for the idea and taking the time to develop it.

For more see an earlier post: An Open Letter From Internet Engineers to the United States Congress and see the discussions at Slashdot.

Tuesday, December 27, 2011

What not to do in a Customer Survey

I've seen a lot of sites that belong on my "what not to do list" but this is one of the worst I've seen in a while. I tried to leave a comment on MetroPCS but was unable to without answering numerous other questions. MetroPCS requires customers to answer all 30 questions in order to submit a comment.  I understand the desire to get customer feedback on a number of issues but this is ridiculous. So ridiculous that you have to wonder if they really want user feedback.

Saturday, December 24, 2011

Bloggers are not Protected by the First Amendement Freedom of Press Clause

Another travesty of justice, a blogger is sued by the company she is lambasting in her blog. The Federal judge rules that the blogger (Crystal Cox) in Finance Group v. Cox is not a journalist and is therefore NOT "entitled to the protections that media defendants enjoy in libel cases."

[Judge] Hernandez held that, under Oregon law, non-media defendants in libel cases are not entitled to any First Amendment protection and thus can be found liable even if they take reasonable care to assure the accuracy of their statements.

This minority view is rooted in the fact that all of the U.S. Supreme Court cases establishing First Amendment protections in libel cases involved news media defendants. While most state courts have held that the reasoning in these cases applies to non-media speakers, a few have clung to the view that private speech about matters of private concern is not constitutionally significant.
Troubling rulings paved way for blogger’s libel conviction

More than that, the Freedom of the Press clause, at the time of the signing of the US Constitution (1787) applied to all written pronouncements. There was no press as we know it today. Broadsides (analog cousins of today's blogs) could be published by anyone and were still be protected by the 1st A.

This ruling could be a horrible precursor of things to come. Libel is libel, but you needn't be hired by a news organization to be covered by Freedom of the Press. According to Judge Hernadez: “Without any controlling or persuasive authority on the issue, I decline to conclude that defendant in this case is ‘media,’ triggering the negligence standard.”

I would love to see if there are any positives to come out of this opinion. Investigative journalism cannot be the sole province of authorized entities.

UPDATE: 2/25/2012

See Finance Group v Cox

Tuesday, December 20, 2011

EU Cookie Compliance Regulations Remain

The UK continues to double down on their foolishly implemented cookie law.

You must provide clear and comprehensive information about any cookies you are using.

I completely respect the quest for privacy but asking people to sign off on cookie laws each time they come to a website is as foolish as to have people sign a form each time they enter a store that has a security camera. As mentioned in earlier posts one solution would be for consumers to digitally sign once and have it apply to all sites OR, more importantly, allow cookie use for basic site analytics and functions but restrict more invasive use that allows for the tracking of users across multiple domains.

For more read ‘Must try harder’ on cookies compliance, says ICO

Friday, December 16, 2011

An Open Letter From Internet Engineers to the United States Congress

Once again the US Congress, in all its wisdom, is trying to solve a problem - copyright infringement and piracy - but doing it poorly. I applaud the effort but rise in opposition. I quote from an open letter dated yesterday written by some of the greats (Vint Cerf, Esther Dyson, Alexandre McKinsie and 80 others)

If enacted, either of these bills will create an environment of tremendous fear and uncertainty for technological innovation, and seriously harm the credibility of the United States in its role as a steward of key Internet infrastructure. Regardless of recent amendments to SOPA, both bills will risk fragmenting the Internet's global domain name system (DNS) and have other capricious technical consequences. In exchange for this, such legislation would engender censorship that will simultaneously be circumvented by deliberate infringers while hampering innocent parties' right and ability to communicate and express themselves online.

Read the entire Letter at

EDIT 12/20/2011

Here's an excellent article on the topic: Don't Break the Internet published by the Stanford Law Review On-Line.

Directing the remedial power of the courts towards the Internet’s core technical infrastructure in this sledgehammer fashion has impact far beyond intellectual property rights enforcement—it threatens the fundamental principle of interconnectivity that is at the very heart of the Internet.


Court-ordered removal or replacement of entries from the series of interlocking databases that reside in domain name servers and domain name registries around the globe undermines the principle of domain name universality—the principle that all domain name servers, wherever they may be located across the network, will return the same answer when queried with respect to the Internet address of any specific domain name. Much Internet communication, and many of the thousands of protocols and applications that together provide the platform for that communication, are premised on this principle.
Indeed, this approach could actually have an effect directly contrary to what its proponents intend: if large swaths of websites are cut out of the Internet addressing system, those sites—and the users who want to reach them—may well gravitate towards alternative, unregulated domain name addressing systems, making it even harder for governments to exercise their legitimate regulatory role in Internet activities.

Saturday, November 26, 2011

Chance Favors the Connected Mind

Nice video. How do we apply it to today's world and the work place? What can institutions do to promote the connected mind? The elitist would say that not all minds are worthy of being connected. And ... that may be true. But even if true - who would make such a determination?

So here's to less intrusive, more private inconnectivity. Here's to it being possible.

Monday, November 21, 2011

Kludge of the Year

My nomination for kludge of the year comes from a friend who is working in Africa. He took this picture of a man jump starting his car.

Friday, November 18, 2011

The most popular programming languages in 2011

There is an interesting graph at IEEE Spectrum.

I agree with the author who wrote:
What has been interesting in recent years is the rise of JavaScript for writing Web-based applications that connect users to databases—think Gmail. In fact, JavaScript's ascent is largely due to Google's creation of the V8 JavaScript engine, a speedy compiler that powers its Chrome browser.

And then there is the rapid rise of Objective-C which underlies Mac OS and iOS.
[It] was barely in TIOBE's top 40 in 2008. But since then, it's climbed rapidly in popularity because people have been using it to write apps for the iPhone and iPad.

I've been looking at Objective-C for a while. An excellent site is at

How do different age groups perceive web applications?

I’ve been wondering how different age groups perceive web applications. I am not finding what I’m looking for. Too many of the tests seem to focus upon how *today’s* elderly perceive the web. For example: “In most cases designers can use standard Web-related terms and assume that users understand them. But in this study, several users were unsure about Web terminology, such as page, homepage, website, or the Web.”

This is not a function of age – but a function of new users. It just happens to be that these new users are also elderly.

I’m looking for such information such as contrast, font size, font type, line-width, pop-ups, amount of content on a screen, decision making, etc…

Jakob Nielsen wrote the following back in 2002

Why Usability is Lower for Seniors
Websites tend to be produced by young designers, who often assume that all users have perfect vision and motor control, and know everything about the Web. These assumptions rarely hold, even when the users are not seniors. However, as indicated by our usability metrics, seniors are hurt more by usability problems than younger users. Among the obvious physical attributes often affected by the human aging process are eyesight, precision of movement, and memory.
Usability for Senior Citizens

OK. So we have the IA perspective on it - but how about the UX? We know reading comprehension is imperative. How about more tests on what *works* in a wider sense? What stimulates interest? What changes exist in how people scan and use websites as they age? I suppose we're going to have to wait for more tests. Maybe as eye-tracking software become more and more affordable we can have more information.

Saturday, November 12, 2011

Unrecognized attribute 'targetFramework'. Note that attribute names are case-sensitive.

I'm learning ASP.NET; installed Visual Studio Express 2010 and had some issues getting started.

I was getting the following message whenever I tried something a little more complicated than request.write(now).

Parser Error Message: Unrecognized attribute 'targetFramework'. Note that attribute names are case-sensitive.

After looking around I found that the error was that ASP.NET 2.0 and not ASP.NET 4.0 was installed.

Go to Control Panel > Administrative Tools > IIS

Right click on WebSite > Properties > ASP.NET > Version >

It should be some version of 4.0 and not 2.0

Don't forget to restart IIS.

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

A Joke for Atheists

Apologies to my religious friends, but this was too funny.

Since my teen-age years I've used the following to explain how I arrived that there is no God.

A is A. (A being defined as EVERYTHING.)

A has always existed. (Inconceivable)

A comes from nothing. (Impossible)

Following the dictum of the great 19th C philosopher Sir Arthur Conan Doyle "once you've eliminated the impossible, whatever remains, no matter how improbable, must be the truth."

Since A coming from nothing is impossible therefore A has always existed.

Wednesday, October 19, 2011

Qwikster, Branding Hell for Netflix

Netflix has made a series of mistakes lately. One can agree or disagree with Netflix's decision to raise their prices, divorce themselves from the DVD market, force some of their customers to have two accounts (one for the streaming video and the other for DVDs). In fact a good case can be made for Netflix to go entirely to streaming video (provided their library includes all their current DVDs) and even for them to raise their prices but there is no excuse, none whatsoever, for them to not research their trademarked name.

The Board of Directors at Netflix approved the unimaginable: they approved the name of their spinoff company without checking to see if the twitter handle was taken. It was.

Say hello to Qwikster

And here's one of the last tweets from qwikster:

Bored as shyt wanna blaze but at the same time I don't ugh fuck it where's the bowl at spark me up lls

What a public relations nightmare. How is it possible that a tech company allowed this to happen? Here's a few paragraphs from a less than complimentary article:

If there is one downside of Netflix's decision to cancel Qwikster, it is that Jason Castillo, the semi-coherent, weed-curious high-schooler who owned the Twitter handle @Qwikster, never got to extort Reed Hastings and his company for all the money that he could. The single bright side in the monumentally stupid Qwikster fiasco was the existence of @Qwikster; there was an unspoken hope that the totally undeserving, totally unprepared and likely totally blazed owner of that Twitter handle would somehow stumble into a large financial payday from Netflix, which would have represented some kind of victory-by-proxy for all of those customers stupefied by Netflix's stupefying decision to split the services in the first place.

Qwikster was a dumb idea. Dumb, dumb, dumb. It should certainly be a first ballot entrant into the Bad Decision Hall of Fame, enshrined next to New Coke, Prohibition and that time Garth Brooks dyed his hair black and played rock music under the name Chris Gaines. Better choices have been made at 24/7 Las Vegas chapels after too many Limoncello shots.

I agree. Better decisions have been made by drunken fools partying away their life savings in Las Vegas.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

A Discussion on Branding

Read an interesting article at The New Yorker, Famous Names by John Colapinto. [Unfortunately The New Yorker doesn't allow nonsubscribers access to their articles. A big mistake, they're still thinking like the dead-tree media they are - but that's the topic for another post.] Colapinto interviewed Lexicon’s founder and C.E.O., David Placek and discussed the process involved in branding: from the Intel's use of "Pentium" to Apple's "PowerBook" to the development of the "BlackBerry." Non-tech examples include the rebranding of the Patagonian toothfish to Chilean Sea Bass.

Lexicon employs linguists who have found commonalities that cross multiple linguistic boundaries. They search for sounds and cadences that evoke the desired response. As with good IAs and BAs they try to determine what their clients need -- which is to seemlessly integrate their product into their customers life.

This article is a worthy read - well worth the effort to download it.

Monday, October 10, 2011

Google+ and Privacy

Love what I see from Google+. The problem I see from Google all revolves around the issue of personal privacy. Can we make on-line information private? There are, different definitions of privacy. Some/all information will be kept in corporate databases - but who will access this information and how? I don't care about advertising/market research. I do care on "unauthorized" people being able to search or query the data for my personal information.

There are several levels of privacy:
1. Companies using the data for market research
2. Companies advertising goods and services
3. Individuals researching you and finding "unauthorized/private" data
4. The government researching you / keeping dossiers.

All I have to say is:

The right of the people to be secure in their persons, houses, papers, and effects, against unreasonable searches and seizures, shall not be violated ...
4th Amendment to the US Constitution

This YouTube video is an excellent introduction to Google+.

Sunday, October 9, 2011

Facebook and Privacy

I detest the fact that so many sites push Facebook to comment on their pages especially when they ignore Disqus and other such services. Today I went to install Spotify and lo-and-behold, I am unable to sign in without a Facebook account.

I understand that Facebook wants to be the portal to the web - the same as AOL a decade ago - but I hope they understand why I, and others concerned with privacy, need to push back.

Just the fact that I MUST have a Facebook account to use this product; that information is being shared between the two companies - and I am forced to opt out, apparently each time I log in, gives me great concern regarding the battles that will be fought in the not too distant future over the definition of personal data (privacy).

Monday, September 19, 2011

Reputation Systems

A talk presented by Randy Farmer, co-author of the O'Reilly book Web Reputation Systems. I highly recommend the book and this video, from a Google Tech Talk seminar, is an excellent introduction.

Randy Farmer explains the pitfalls behind creating reputation systems. At issue is how people interact on-line; how they become "known" and rated as "trustworthy." In a very short time reputation and privacy will be considered two sides of the same coin. Anonymity has its use, but of greater value would be to have anonymity AND reputation. This way people will be able to communicate w/o fear of retribution AND be able to separate the troll from the avatar.

We can see that a future world, where people are better known by their avatars, may lead to problems. I can't begin to foresee those issues - that will be discussed and analyzed a decade from now.

Cheap, functional, reliable things unleash the creativity of people who then build stuff that you could not imagine. There’s no way of predicting the Internet based on the first transistor.”

George Whitesides: Toward a Science of Simplicity

Friday, September 9, 2011

QR Codes - Time For Apps to be Built

I think there is a huge demand for QR Codes. 14 million people in the US selected a QR Code in June, over 6% of the total mobile audience. That is a HUGE amount considering that as of yet there is little to no utility for the end user. As soon as utility improves QR Code usage will skyrocket. As of now it's simply a toy whose main appeal are to gadget lovers.

The study also found that these scanners were more likely to be men (60.5% of scanners) and aged 18 to 34 (53.4%) and have a household income of $100,000 or above (36.1%).
14m Americans scanned QR and bar codes with their mobiles in June 2011

It's been two plus years since they've hit the market - the only question that exists is: how long before QR Codes EXPLODE on the market?

Saturday, August 27, 2011

Protect your Databases

My child is going to a new school so perhaps this was funnier today than it would be at other times.

Saturday, August 20, 2011

YouTube, TV and Google

Is there any question that youtube is now a major broadcasting company? How long before CBS, NBC and ABC pale in comparison? As readwriteweb put it:

YouTube used to be known for its weirdos and amateurs, and while they're still abundant on the site, maybe more popular than ever, YouTube is becoming something other than a social network. It's now a mass medium.

YouTube, mature as it seems to be after 6 years, is still growing at a 50% rate with 3,000,000 views per day. Where will it be in 5 years?

Wednesday, August 17, 2011

CSS Regions

Adobe is pushing CSS Regions hard. It's a wonderful extension of HTML: allowing text to automatically flow through different containers (even non-rectangular containers). Years ago this was on my wish list along with higher resolution screens, flex-screens, voice interface with devices and Star Trek type search engines.

Slowly but surely the future is coming to be. Here's a video of what soon (hopefully) will be reality

UPDATE 12/9/2011

UPDATE 12/17/2011

Friday, July 29, 2011

The Future of Technology

Here's some old cellphone commercials from the 1980s and 90s. Back in the day floppies were 1.4 mgs; external harddrives costing hundreds of dollars held 20 mgs; modem bandwidth was at 9600 until 1991.

Why this history of technology? As HCI professionals we must, at times, think of where we may be going. There is no better way to get a glimpse of the technology in 20 years than to look back at technology from twenty years ago. Let's keep in mind Moore's Law (that computing power doubles in power every 18mths while the price drops in half) while thinking of the possible and where will we be.

If you want to see a very accurate view of the internet from 1969 see:

Will we have apps that will know what food we have in the refrigerator and our cupboards and be able to come up with recipies with our existing food. For example type: I want something spicy, preferably Mexican or Indian; keep it low calorie; use items that will go bad; etc...

EDIT 12/31/2011:

This site 11 Predictions That Back To The Future Part II Got Right might inspire your thinking of what's yet to come.

Thursday, July 21, 2011

The Future of Google

“Our goal is to make sure that people can find what they’re looking for and get off the page as quickly as possible.”
SearchEngineLand interview with Marissa Mayer

This is an interesting concept.  Google's value at the moment is to bring users to the information that they're looking for; at that point the user is finished with Google and is off to review the search results. But, what are the users truly looking for? Are they looking for pages with that may-or-may-not contain the information they're looking for or are they looking for the answers to whatever question they had? If it's the later (and I suspect that Wolfram Alpha is on the right track - then I suspect that soon enough Google will be supplying answers to users and want users to stay on their site for all their needs.

Monday, June 27, 2011

The Singularity is Near

How many more doubles until the singularity?

If you don't know what the singularity is - and you have some time - read the following article by Ray Kurzweil,
The Law of Accelerating Returns. It's one of my favorite articles and informs much of my thinking of the future of technology.

Processing speed is growing exponentially. While the first few doubles may not be noticed, or seem exciting to outside observers, it can soon grow to game-changing proportions.

Year Name Transistors
1971 4004 2,300
1972 8008 2,500
1974 8080 4,500
1978 8086 29,000
1982 286 134,000
1985 386 275,000
1989 486 1,200,000
1993 Pentium 3,100,000
1997 Pentium II 7,500,000
1999 Pentium III 9,500,000
2000 Pentium 4 42,000,000
2002 Itanium 2 220,000,000
2004 Itanium 2 592,000,000

I got the above table from Intel, published in 2005. Six years later the Core i7 (Sandy Bridge E) has 2270 million transistors (2,270,000,000).

Where will we be in 20 years? Assuming computing power (equivalent but not equal to transistors) continues to double every 18 months we will go through 13 more doubles, 2.27 billion will become 4.5 billion in 18 months and become 9000 billion in 20 years. Imagine that if you can.

Twenty years ago we had clunky "portable phones" with huge batteries, today we carry around TVs in our pocket. Tomorrow will it carry all our books, medical records, photos? Of course. We need to imagine what new things could be there. Could it be a portable "pensieve?" A place to store and review memories?

Sunday, June 19, 2011

QR Codes - Why Aren't We Hearing More About Them?

QR Code usage is ramping up very slowly. Why is that? It's a wonderful idea. Use your phone as a scanner and get more information about a product, or include it into an existing app. For instance you can scan your food and an app could help you come up with something to cook for that night; another app could help can keep track of your clothes. Let an app know what your favorite beer is (it could tell that from your purchases and web queries) and as you pass a bar you could get a notice that this very bar has Six-Point Righteous Rye on tap and a great selection of Avery beers.

Why has it not taken off? Because right now selecting a QR Code provides limited utility to the end user. This will change shortly - in 5 years or so - when there are apps galore for the end user. Of course then QR Codes will be invisible, with dozens, if not hundreds hidden in EVERY graphic.

We can see the inevitable problems: as QR Codes become "pushed" on consumers there will be new calls for privacy; new data piracy problems. We will solve these problems as well.

EDIT 12/2/2011:

Starbucks Cup Magic launches for iPhone and Android devices in the US next week and allows users to point their iPhone at specially designed Christmas cups and see all sorts of fancy dancing things and enter competition.

The app works by pointing your phone’s camera at the company’s red holiday season coffee cups and 47 additional objects, such as bags of coffee, on display at Starbucks retail locations. Doing so will produce animations involving five characters — an ice skater, a squirrel, a boy and a dog sledding and a fox — on your screen. You can also interact with the characters. For instance, if you tap the boy on the sled he does a somersault. Those who activate all five characters can qualify to win an as-yet-unnamed prize.

Starbucks brings seasonal cups to life with AR

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Password Codes

LifeHacker has an interesting article regarding the most commonly used pin numbers.

iPhone developer Daniel Amitay anonymously recorded and analyzed passcodes of users of his Big Brother Camera Security iPhone app, resulting in an interesting list of the ten most common passcodes, which, in order of popularity, include 1234, 0000, 2580, 1111, 5555, 5683 (spells LOVE), 0852, 2222, 1212, 1998.

These 10 numbers were accounted for approximately 15% of all the passwords, 1 in 7 of the total. Of course people are slightly less concerned about their password security for their camera app than they are regarding their finances but the moral of the story is that one must be careful in the way one creates password algorighms.

Thursday, May 26, 2011

The ICO and Cookies

The ICO (the UK agency which is concerned with the cookies and privacy) still uses Google Analytics but they include a warning label.

If companies simply write, as did the ICO below - and users automatically click to accept as they want access to the data then of what use was the law?

The ICO would like to use cookies to store information on your computer, to improve our website. One of the cookies we use is essential for parts of the site to operate and has already been set. You may delete and block all cookies from this site, but parts of the site will not work. To find out more about the cookies we use and how to delete them, see our privacy notice.

Monday, May 16, 2011

The Brave New World of HCI - Low Cost Eye Recognition Software

One of my pet issues in IA has been the expense in conducting usability tests. How much better would our applications be if the cost of testing dropped significantly?

There is no question that the scope and quantity of HCI and other useability tests that are published and accessible to IA professionals have greatly aided in the construction of new applications. For example The Texas Transportation Institute studied how people absorbed information while driving. Among them that drivers could absorb 4 distinct pieces of information but retention fell dramatically when a fifth was added. It also showed that the test takers overwhelmingly prefered dates in the Text/Numeral Format (APR 21) over the Numeral Format (4/21).

What excites me is fact that eye tracking tests may soon be done with little cost. The best tests will, of course, have professionals conducting them but with the cost of eye tracking software and hardware dropping to the insignificance will we see the Wikipedization of IA? Where we have 1000s, if not 10,000 of individual studies made on a particular topic; where academics and other HCI professionals can make metastudies and/or use these "amature" tests as a jumping off point?

EDIT (Nov 17, 2011)
Teenager Builds $300 Open Source Eye-Tracking System 27

EU, the UK and the Ongoing Cookie Fiasco

The EU law regarding cookies is quite confusing and it will be interesting to see what will happen. Will the EU and member governments enforce or clarify their laws?

There is an interesting portion from a UK document from the Information Commissioner's Office: Changes to the rules on using cookies and similar technologies for storing information

Some of the things you do will have no privacy impact at all and may even help users keep their information safe. Other technologies will simply allow you to improve your website based on information such as which links are used most frequently or which pages get fewest unique views. However, some uses of cookies can involve creating detailed profiles of an individual’s browsing activity.

If you are doing this, or allowing it to happen, on your website or across a range of sites, it is clear that you are doing something that could be quite intrusive – the more privacy intrusive your activity, the more priority you will need to give to getting meaningful consent.

Of course the devil is in the details and we're not getting much information. I have a feeling these laws may die on the vine - but I fear that it be pulled out in a later date and sprung on a company or a group of companies.

UPDATE: 5/28/2011

The following article is worth reading as well:
Enforcing the revised Privacy and Electronic Communications Regulations (PECR)

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

I've been spending a lot of time at the last few weeks. What a great site for anyone researching responsive design.

Thursday, May 5, 2011

The Return of Moores Law

Not too long Michio Kaku was predicting the End of Moore's Law and now we see Intel announcing that "it had again found a way to make computer chips that could process information more quickly and with less power in less space." Intel expects "to be able to make chips that run as much as 37 percent faster in low-voltage applications and it would be able to cut power consumption as much as 50."

Does this mean that Michio Kaku was wrong? No. But as mentioned in the earlier post there are numerous workarounds. At worst, assuming that Kaku is right that, for the moment, we've come to the end of increasing computer power by brute force, we will then need to become more efficient with the power we have.

I would bet that Michio Kaku is wrong and expect that computing power will continue to increase. Intel is increasing the efficiency of their design, not simply by making things smaller - as has been done for the last 30 years - but by being more efficient with what they have.

Early transistors were built on a flat surface. But like a real estate developer building skyscrapers to get more rentable space from a plot of land, Intel is now building up. When the space between the billions of tiny electronic switches on the flat surface of a computer chip is measured in the width of just dozens of atoms, designers needed the third dimension to find more room.
Intel Increases Transistor Speed by Building Upward

For a more complete explanations see: Intel Announces first 22nm 3D Tri-Gate Transistors, Shipping in 2H 2011 and
Intel Announces New 22nm 3D Tri-gate Transistors

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

The End of TV

We can see the end of TV coming down the road. It will soon be a relic of the past (more like an 8-track tape than a typewriter or turntable). I'm not saying that people will stop watching movies or "TV" shows, rather that they will not be watching these shows on a dumb device.

The age of wall-sized screens with background scenery, art work, and video phones where you see your friends, in their living rooms, sitting on their sofa drinking a glass wine while they see you in your living room may not be here yet but we have the first real indication that that day is coming.

Nielsen shows a decline in the percentage of homes with TVs.

The latest data from the company, which takes TV set ownership into account when it calculates ratings, shows that 96.7 percent of U.S. homes own a TV set, down from 98.9 percent as of its previous count. There are now 114.7 million TV homes, compared to 115.9 million, Nielsen estimates as it gears up for the 2012 TV season.

Nielsen ascribes a portion of this to increased poverty and the other to a transition to digital. "Nielsen did not detail what proportion of the decline in homes with TV sets can be attributed to each of these reasons."

I see this as a beginning of a trend that will very soon shake the TV/Movie industry to its core. The solution is clear but they don't see it. It's the same as with the newspaper and book industry. Subscribers pay a fee to access ALL content and the funds get allocated according to eyeballs. We know all the rants-and-raves against it but the ranting and raving is coming from the segment of the industry which is dying. The solution is linking data producers with consumers as quickly and easily as possible. The payment to market makers will come from the data producers who chose to higher the advertisers, marketers or from investors who have "invested" in the future performance of data producers.

Friday, April 29, 2011

Copyright Law for the Digital Age

The Architecture of Access to Scientific Knowledge from lessig on Vimeo.

A very interesting talk by Larry Lessing at CERN. I have a few nits I would pick with his presentation but overall I think it is tremendous and worthy of viewing by anyone interested in science, education, the arts, the modern world, and the future of human civilization.

Thursday, April 28, 2011

Cyber War - The Glass Dragon

There is an excellent account at ThreatPost regarding China and the opening phase of Cyber War: Glass Dragon: China's Cyber Offense Obscures Woeful Defense.

It appears that China, while superb on offense is lacking somewhat on defense. The author, Paul Roberts, describes his tests on Chinese systems and finds them quite lacking. It appears that China has much the same weaknesses as the US and others based upon a distrust of open source and an insistence of reinventing systems. The result is system as open to attack and disrupt as ours, if not more so.

Two quotes says it all:
I think China is growing very fast and there aren't enough people to maintain the infrastructure. They have more networks and government sites than their own government can even maintain. They don't have the manpower or even the knowledge to maintain them. And, in many ways, China is still playing catch up with the US. They're an aggressor in cyberspace, but their own networks are very weak and poorly designed. I'm not saying that to shed a negative light on China, but there's so much out there that they just can't maintain it all. Beyond that, there's a lack of trust in Western products - even open source products. A fear that people will put back doors in them, which really misunderstands what open source is about, which is: if we have a lot of eyes looking at the code, people will spot problems and fix them.

Its really not hard. In fact, the amount of data I have found that is not intended for public consumption is amazing. I stopped after three terabytes. These systems are not maintained and are all vulnerable to attacks. HTTP is just one attack vector, but there are many others. For example: there was an LDAP server that was accessible from the Internet and it running a vulnerable version of PHP and, in addition, everything on the server was running as root. I find that a lot - its a bit of laziness by system administrators that makes their job easier. I was able to compromise the the server and then simply enumerate the directory and find other file servers and systems on the network that weren't connected to the Internet. Another example is China's National University of Defense Technology. They had a bunch of Web servers that weren't using SSL or HTTPS, so everyone was logging in using plain HTTP. All you needed to do was compromise one box and you could sniff all the user names and passwords in clear text.

Wednesday, April 6, 2011

Google Liable for AutoComplete Defamation

More legal news from Italy. An undisclosed plaintiff sued Google for defamation.

People searching via Google ... were apparently presented with autocomplete suggestions including truffatore ("con man") and truffa ("fraud")....

This "caused a lot of trouble to the client, who has a public image both as an entrepreneur and provider of educational services in the field of personal finance".

Google loses autocomplete defamation case in Italy

Since the auto-complete algorithm was created and maintained by Google the court ruled that Google is to be held responsible for the outcomes.

So what is the result of this? Google must make certain that no words like "loser, fool, fraud, dummy" comes up in their auto-complete? Does Google simply remove auto-complete entirely so as not to invite further lawsuits? I never was a big fan of Google's autocomplete but all this will accomplish is to prevent new products from entering the workplace.

This is another horrible court coming from the EU. I fear with the new privacy ruling, going into effect on May 25, whereby websites must get "explicit consent" from web users before being tracked with a cookie that the EU is destroying innovation and intent on "controlling" the internet. As regards the EU privacy law I'm still not certain if this law applies only to client-side cookies or applies to server-side and session variables as well.

Tuesday, April 5, 2011

Yahoo is Responsible for Illegal Downloads

There was a horrible decision from the Court of Rome. Apparently people could view pirated copies of a movie (About Elly) on line. The Court of Rome ordered Yahoo to remove any link to the unlawful copies of the movie.

The only reason the Court did not include Google and other SEs is because the Italian division of those companies did not have an active role in the management of the search engines and thus were outside the jurisdiction of the court.

If this decision stands then search engines would be responsible for the content found through their site. The court did say that it would be impossible for the SE to police the material themselves but was responsible for promptly acting when a copyrite holder makes a claim about pirated material. The court also took into consideration the fact that the illegal sites were ranked higher than the official site. SEO anyone? Bueller? Bueller?

The fact that a SE is, in anyway, responsible for the material on the web is a horrible precedence. Intentional or not this is the first step to shutting down commercial activity across the web; the first step to eliminated any non-approved site. This is a special concern to anyone who is interested in privacy rights and free speech.

I can't find an English translation of the case but if you can read Italian here it is.

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Facebook Being Sued to Remove Data

Two years ago a woman was murdered in Staten Island, NY. The EMT who arrived at the scene took a photo of the murder scene and posted it on his Facebook page. The murderer was caught and convicted and the EMT lost his job and certification. Now the family is suing Facebook regarding turning over the photos in question and identifying the users who saw and downloaded the photos.

I'm not a fan of Facebook as it concerns privacy rights but in this case the family is in the wrong. The only thing that can be done is to remove the offending photo from the EMT's account (and, if it's in the TOS, to close the account). However, now the family is asking the courts to force Facebook to violate others' privacy by finding out who "viewed" and "downloaded" the photos. Assuming the data exists (unlikely) and assuming that the newspaper account of the suit is correct the family is asking something quite unreasonable.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

The End of Moore's Law

Michio Kaku believes Moores Law has run its course; that the age of "cheap computing" is over and as a result the economy and life will take a hit as a result.

So the collapse of Moore's law is a matter of international importance, with trillions of dollars at stake. But precisely how it will end, and what will replace it, depends on the laws of physics. The answers to these physics questions will eventually rock the economic structure of capitalism. ...

Around 2020 or soon afterward, Moore's law will gradually cease to hold true and Silicon Valley may slowly turn into a rust belt unless a replacement technology is found.
What happens when computers stop shrinking?

He makes several interesting points - but, as good a physicist as he is, Michio Kaku misses the mark when it comes to business and innovation. For instance, now with computing power growing so fast, efficient use of that computing power is not formost on peoples minds. Look what was able to be done in 1969 with a computer less powerful than in today's phones. Efficient use of the available computing power was paramount then. It will be again. What other ways will we have to increase our processing ability -- assuming we don't find a "replacement technology?" Will we be able to combine existing processors to make something more powerful? Will we be able to develop processes that don't require brute force to solve the problem?

Here's some bits of insight into what's within the realm of possibility:

Fruit Flies Hold the Key To Faster Computing
Dr. Ziv Bar-Joseph, a researcher at Carnegie Mellon, may have found the key to faster computing in the form of fruit flies. While computer scientists have long struggled with determining optimal communications paths in digital environments, Bar-Joseph believes the answer can be found by studying the biological make-up of fruit flies: 'Determining how to select a [Maximal Independent Set] is difficult and has been under scrutiny for many years. It turns out that fruit flies solve a similar problem.
Air Force Supercomputer Made From PS3's
The Air Force's Research Lab in Rome, NY. has one of the cheapest supercomputers ever made, and best of all over 3,000 of your friends can play Tekken on it. The computer is made from 1,716 PlayStation 3s linked together, and is used to process images from spy planes.

The Supercomputer is cheaper and uses a "fraction of the energy that comparably sized supercomputers use. Portions of it — say 300 machines — can be turned on while the rest are off, depending on a job’s needs."
PS3 Supercomputer

Maybe Moore's Law is coming to an end by 2020 (and then again maybe not) but I would bet (and am betting) that greater efficiency will bridge us until new technologies will allow us to once again double computing power at a fairly rapid rate.

Wednesday, March 23, 2011

Just Say No to Phone Calls

In the last five years, full-fledged adults have seemingly given up the telephone — land line, mobile, voice mail and all. According to Nielsen Media, even on cellphones, voice spending has been trending downward, with text spending expected to surpass it within three years.

If you're a techy and want to read something that is sure to become an instant pulp fiction classic then take a look at the following article in the NYTs:

Cultural Studies
Don’t Call Me, I Won’t Call You
Published: March 18, 2011

What's particularly interesting is the tone of this article, and especially that some, if not many, would find this to be new or alarming.

As anyone in the tech world knows phones are become less and less important as a means of verbal communication. I don't know about you but I will email the person next to me. "Why?" Ask my parents and other non-techies? Because emails can be addressed at the recipients' leisure. Perhaps, just perhaps, the person right next to me is deep in thought and doesn't want to be disturbed. THAT is the beauty of text and email and one of the reasons that text has swiftly overcome voice as a means of communication.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Breaking News and Malware has a great article on how black-hat websters ensnare Google users and redirect them to malware infected sites which prompts people to download fake anti-virus software.

Apparantly in the moments after a major catastrophe these sites take advantage of the situation:

[in]the first few hours after the event almost any site with relevant information have good chances to rank high on Google. This short window when competition is quite light is all cyber-criminal need to have a steady traffic to their breaking new related doorway pages.

Major Disasters in Poisoned Search Results

Thursday, March 17, 2011

Monday, March 14, 2011

Celebrate Pi Day - It's 3.14

Today is a big day, not only is it Pi Day but it's the day to finish your corporate taxes - or at least your extension.
Good Luck to All.

And don't forget to mark your calendar to have a drink at 9:26 on March 14, 2015. (3.1415926)

Sunday, March 6, 2011

EU outlaws cookies?

It looks as if, starting May 25, it will be illegal for websites coming under the jurisdiction of the EU to use cookies without prior explicit consent from the user. This will impact all sites that advertise or monitor their site usage with Google Analytics or any other such provider.

I'm still a little up-in-the-air about what is truly restricted. Some reports say that it only applies to client-side cookies whereas others seem to include server-side cookies as well.

Monday, February 28, 2011

Google Takes on the Link Farms

It appears that Google is successfully taking on the link farms that have plagued us for the last several years. Their new algorithm has deprecated many sites, witnessed by the complaints at Google Help and other sites, and hopefully will put an end to the link-farm scourge.

Many of the changes we make are so subtle that very few people notice them. But in the last day or so we launched a pretty big algorithmic improvement to our ranking—a change that noticeably impacts 11.8% of our queries—and we wanted to let people know what’s going on. This update is designed to reduce rankings for low-quality sites—sites which are low-value add for users, copy content from other websites or sites that are just not very useful. At the same time, it will provide better rankings for high-quality sites—sites with original content and information such as research, in-depth reports, thoughtful analysis and so on.
Finding more high-quality sites in search

As with many people I'm both excited about - and concerned about - the new Google Chrome Blocklist extension. Let's hope this extension is made availabe to other browsers and that it cannot to easily be used for evil as well as good.

Thursday, February 24, 2011

Expectation of Privacy

A talk held by the EFF regarding the privacy of the information on your computer. It is a very interesting review of current US law regarding the 4th Amendment.

Wednesday, February 16, 2011

Cyber War, The First Phase Has Begun

It looks as if it is true: American and Israeli Cyber-Soldiers attacked the Iranian Nuclear Program by infecting them with worms and viruses.

The latest results of a Symnatec study concentrating on the Stuxnet worm revealed that its developers knew what they were doing - once finished, it took only 12 hours to infect the first target.

The study also concluded that the Stuxnet attacks can be dated back to June 2009 - more than a year prior to it being first discovered by security experts - and that its intial targets were five separate organizations that have a presence in Iran and most of which have been attacked at various points through 2009 and 2010.
Israeli general claims Stuxnet attacks as one of his successes

If you want to see a counter-argument see this video. It's long but raises excellent points.

The Cyber War Threat Has Been Grossly Exaggerated from Intelligence Squared US on Vimeo.

Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Two Important Principles in Designing for Mobile Devices

First, place less items on the screen. Only the most important content and features should be displayed. What’s normal for a 1024x768 + screen is overwhelming on a smaller screen resolution.

Second, use only one column. Eliminate what would otherwise be in the right column and place the navigation that might have been placed in the left column at the top and the bottom.

If you started designing websites in the 1990s this is a simple transition. For those who started designing after 1024 + screens became the norm … have fun. :-)

Friday, February 4, 2011

Facebook using Social Authentication

Facebook has introduced an "innovative way to verify real users rather than using CAPTCHAS. Using the Social Login feature (or Social Authentication as Facebook calls it), users will be shown a few pictures of their friends and then they will be asked to name the person in those photos."

The logic is that it would be harder for hackers to be able to identify your friends. This would work quite well against a program but I'm not particularly thrilled by this idea in practice. A group trying to hack a celebrity's or political figure's site would be willing to do the research so they to would be able to recognize a large number of the person's friends. Thus compromising the security measure.

It does remind me of a photographic password system that XEROX PARC (I think it was XEROX PARC) came up with several years ago. I wonder why it never took off - that idea seemed to be excellent. The photographic system would take a photo - show it to you and say THIS IS THE PASSWORD. It would then make, as for example, twenty-nine variations on a theme. The human being would easily be able to remember the correct photo but our language is not nuanced enough for it to be accurately described to another.

Obviously there was a flaw to the system otherwise the idea would have spread.

Thursday, February 3, 2011

Women Equal Problems

Just found the above joke at

Nitecruzr is a regular at the Google Help Forums.

Oh, and please don't parse it too closely, it doesn't hold careful scrutiny - but it is funny.

Saturday, January 29, 2011

The Top 10 Websites blocked or filtered by Businesses

OpenDNS has come out with its list of the Top 10 sites filtered by businesses.

Businesses have specific goals in mind when blocking websites. They need to ensure compliance with HR policies, while also increasing worker productivity by preventing what they consider to be employee cyberslacking. This list shows that businesses are concerned with singling out popular sites considered to be of little value in a work setting, especially if they consume a lot of bandwidth. Percentages indicate proportion of business networks using blacklisting feature that reference a given site.

10. eBay (1.6%)
9. Meebo (1.6%)
8. (1.8%)
7. Orkut (2.1%)
6. Hotmail (2.1%)
5. Twitter (4.2%)
4. (5.7%)
3. YouTube (11.9%)
2. MySpace (13%)
1. Facebook (23%)

Saturday, January 1, 2011

Guess the Hex Color

OK, the following is for design geeks only. The object is to select the color from the given hex code. It's good for some laughs. (Warning, for geeks only.)

Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah and have a wonderful New Year